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A. B. Harvard University, 1911. 
M. A. University of Illinois, 1914 


Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the 

Degree of 





I?. I? 



May 11 




THE degree of Sector of philosophy 

In Charge of Thesis 

Head of Department 

Recommendation concurred in* 

''Required for doctor's degree but not for master's 




Final Examination* 


I Introduction 1 

II Method 14 

III The Symbol 45 

IV The Pact and the Symbol 62 

1 . Ad enuacy 63 

a. Accuracy 66 

b. The Word and the Thing 76 

c . Limitations 88 

2. Each and All 99 

a. Experience 113 

b. Idiom 143 

c. Compression 161 

d. Understatement and the 

Superlative 178 

V The Growth of Emerson's Theories of Style . . 193 
Bibliography 218 




Emerson praises Landor as a critic "because he has "ex- 
amined before he has expatiated."^ Critics of Emerson's style have 
"been numberless ; examiners, especially those who have subjected his 
manner of writing to careful detailed analysis, few. Among those 
who have had their eye firmly fixed on the object itself there can 
hardly be reckoned the critics of greatest general reputation, 
Arnold 2 and Lord Morley. 3 These men say much that is true of Emer- 
son's incontinuity and structural weakness, but they point out the 
compensations for this defect most charily. This is perhaps to be 
expected of classicized litterateurs, who are temperamentally un- 
fitted to appreciate either the homely or the transcendental. In 
criticism of style, sympathy mu3t accompany, if indeed it does not 
produce, discernment. 

Two treatments of Emerson's style seem to me peculiarly 
satisfactory, as combining both knowledge and understanding: those 
by Burroughs and Professor Firkins. Burroughs is interested, 
like Emerson, in nature, poetry, and style; and is thoroughly at 
home in the Concord atmosphere. He regards Emerson's manner of ex- 
pression as the best which Hew England could produce: lacking in 
mass and unction, but electric in its epigrammatic brilliancy, sus- 
tained intellectuality, and power to inspire. 

Natural History of Intellect : Papers from the Dial , 

2 3 
alter Savage Landor . Discourses in America : Emerson . Critical 

4 5 
Miscellanies I: Emerson . Birds and Poets : Emerson . Ralph Waldo 



Pro feasor Firkins' treatment is unique in being based on 
definite and complete acquaintance with the Journals , the publica- 
tion of which was completed in 1914. This knowledge of the Journals 
is important, for the revelations there have enabled him to criti- 
cize as one fully aware of what Emerson was actually striving for 
stylistically. In his minute but decidedly sane investigation, he 
has isolated and pinned down with admirable though perhaps terri- 
fying nicety the specific qualities of the style. 

A paragraph from his chapter on Emerson as a Prose - 

7/riter will serve to show what these qualities are, and to indicate 

that a style so distinctive is worthy of the keen attention which 

it has received. "Emerson aspired toward two traits or qualities 

of style, the intense and the organic. To multiphy significance, 

to charge words with the quality of things, to reach ultimata, 

finalities, in expression — this was his aim. Out of this ambition 

rise his leading traits, merits and defects, the intrepid metaphor, 

the flashing epigram, the unchained hyperbole, the approach, both 

in homely and florid language, to the outmost confines of good 

taste, the annulment of verbiage, the pursuit of condensation. But 

beyond this power to coruscate and crepitate with meaning, he saw 

another primal virtue in language, the virtue that made it organic 

or constitutional, the free and native outflow of the personality. 

Emerson's search for the first of these virtues made him only half 

successful in the attainment of the second." 

12 3 
Other writers — notably Garnett , Holmes, Lowell, and 


Brownell — have pointed out these characteristics, though none 

1 2 3 

Life Ralph Waldo Emerson . Ralph Waldo Emerson . My 


Study V/indows : Emerson the .Lecturer . American Prose V/riter s : Emer3cn . 

with 9uoh inclusiveness. It has been generally agreed that the 
style is pithy and pointed rather than flowing, and memorable 
rather in sentences than in entire essays; that it has been in- 
fluenced for better or for worse by the eloquence of Everett and 
Channing and the requirements of the lecture platform; that it is 
both surprising and felicitous in its use of the right word in the 
right place; that its tropes are extraordinary in their combination 
of apt adjustment and spiritual power; and that altogether it has 
on the reader a lifting, arousing, and ennobling effect* 

Obviously, such a style deserves study. What, then, is 
to be said of the theories of literary expression which Emerson pro- 
fessed, and which, put into practice, resulted in this style? He 
has not concealed the secrets of his workshop, A remarkable pro- 
portion of the Works consists of his reflections and discoveries con 
cerning the art and process of writing. There are two essays on 
Eloquence . one on The Superlative , one on Art and Criticism , one on 
Inspiration , one on The Poet , one on Poetry and Imagination , and 
there are scattered dicta in quantities on the same general subject. 
The Journals add at least as great a bulk of material. To these may 
be joined an essay on Expr essi on , published in the Atlantic Lion t hi y 
in November, 1860, but apparently unknown to the bibliographers. 

"Why has never the poorest country college offered me a 


professorship in rhetoric?" asked Emerson in his journal in 1862. 

For such a chair his equipment was certainly ideal. He could write, 

in the first place; and in the second place, he knew his subject 

thoroughly. From childhood he had practised the art and had been 

concerned about means for perfecting himself in it. "It was as 
1 _____ 
Jour. IX, 413 


natural to this boy to write as to another to play ball," says Dr. 


Edward Emerson. His journals are sufficient monument to the per- 
sistence of this instinct. Day by day he wrote there - summaries 
of his reading, citations from it, comments on it; wood-thoughts; 
records of conversations; anecdotes; stray metaphors; notes, sen- 
tences, and paragraphs for essays and lectures. '.Then no thoughts 
came, he grieved and sought the cause, when inspiration did visit 
him, he watched its coming, its results, and its departure. Always, 
he thought about stylistic questions; hi3 own and others' aims in 
expression; his own and their success and failure. And these 
thoughts he painstakingly recorded. 

It has been my endeavor to classify and piece together 
these dis j ecta membra , hoping to show in them the homogeneity which 
I believe really resides there, and thus to evolve an Emersonian 
treatise on style. !The materials are excellent, There has lived 
no other writer of power who has had so many definite, interesting, 
and valuable things to say about literary expression. Best of all, 
Emerson's attitude is rot that of the textbook rhetorician; he deals 
not with formulas but with the living process of writing, in which he 
himself is every day engaged. It is important, but only secondarily 
so, that what he has to say gives the critic of his style an answer 
to that which should be the critic's first question: What is the 
author himself trying to do? The real value in the assembling of 
this material is that it makes up a treatise of general interest 
to all who care about the art of writing* For though Emerson gained 
his ideas from first-hand experience and subordinated them to his 
philosophical tenets, many of them accord with the ideals which have 


J our . I , viii . 


governed writing from Aristotle's day to this. 

Host of his comments on style connect themselves, as I 
have just s -id , with his philosophy, and gathering them and seeing 
them in their proper relations is, indeed, impossible without con- 
sidering their underlying philosophical basis. His theories of 
literary expression cannot he divorced from the doctrines of the 
Oversoul, the Symbol, and. 3ach and All, and, preeminently, this 
transcendental dualism. Let us see what these doctrines are and. 
what their relation is to his theories of style. 

Defines of transcendentalism, especially of its Kew England 
manifestation, have been too prone to neglect what the chief of the 
American transcendent aliat s , Emerson, considered its central belief. 
Departing from Locke and agreeing with Aant, asserting that there 
are intuitive truths as well as those perceived by the senses, the 
transcendentalist of Uew England is a man of two worlds. He has an 
abiding faith that there is a sphere of sense and a sphere of spirit- 
ual perception, that two views of things are possible, the material 
and the ideal, and the ideal is paramount. For hira some things seem, 
others are; some are apparent, others real; some finite, others in- 
finite; 3ome relative, others absolute. He is aware of the facts of 
consciousness, but he knows of truths above consciousness. And far 
more than the worldly facts he esteems the spiritual truths. 

Indispensable aids by which the transcendentalist dis- 
tinguishes the actual from the ideal are the Understanding and the 
Reason. These are lower and higher intellectual compartments that 
deal respectively with the concrete and with the loftily abstract; 
with the facts of experience and with intuitive truths. This world- 
old distinction, like the more inclusive one we have just been re- 

peating whioh separates materialism from idealism, may be most con- 
veniently and perhaps most accurately labeled Platonic. Concerning 
its modern application and sources it is advisable to quote from 
Emerson's significant letter to his brother Edward: ".. Do you draw 
the distinction of Hilton, Coleridge, and the Germans between Reason 
and Understanding? .. Reason is the highest faculty of the soul, 
what we mean often by the soul itself: it never reasons , never proves; 
it simply perceives, it is vision. The Understanding toils all the 

time, oompares, contrives, adds, argues; near-sighted but strong- 


sighted, dwelling in the present, the expedient, the customary." 
The transcendentalist, Emerson makes evident, has the advantage or 
disadvantage mentally of possessing both a green-shuttered habitation, 
and an aery home. 

Yet it is not enough to say this and to omit the relation 
whioh one has to the other. For the same fact may be looked at with 
the eye of Understanding, or with the eye of Reason — may be con- 
sidered materially or ideally. "Every fact," Emerson says, "is re- 
lated on one side to sensation, and on the other to morals. The 
game of thought is, on the appearance of one of these two sides, to 
find the other: given the upper, to find the under side. Nothing so 
thin but has these two faces, and when the observer has seen the ob- 
verse, he turns it over to see the reverse. Life is a pitching; of 


this penny, — heads or tails." And if the idealist always calls 
heads, he is not blind to the tail when it turns uppermost. 

In fact, he derives from its appearance some notion of how 
the other side looks. After all, the many mansions are intelligible 

1 2 
Memoir I, 217-8. Representative Men : Montaigne 


only because of the existence of earthly cottages. The trans- 
cendentalist subordinates, but he does not reject facts, experience, 
things that seem; he uses them symbolically. Reflected in the ideal- 
ist's looking glass, temporalities serve as hints of things eternal, 
which would otherwise be incomprehensible. In other words, the 
transcendentalist , though he estimates the value of the apparent as 
low, does not therefore neglect it. Of supreme importance from the 
point of view of transcendental literary composition — he uses the 
apparent as language . 

His attitude is this: He "admits the impressions of sense, 
admits their coherency, their use and beauty, and then asks the mat- 
erialist for his grounds of assurance that things are as his senses 
represent them. But I, he says, affirm facts not affected by the 
illusions of sense, facts which are of the same nature as the faculty 
which reports them, and not liable to doubt; facts which in their 
first appearance to us assume a native superiority to the material 

facts, degrading these into a language by which the first are spok- 

en." The inferiority of the material facts is plain; so also is 
their figurative value as expression. 

Of value in connection with expression, also, is the 
doctrine of the One and the Maim of Each and All. According to 
this, there exists above and runs through all things, natural and 
spiritual, a pervading essence, divine in nature. This is 
called by various names: the Eternal Unity, the One, the All, the 
Oversoul. The One, being in all things, stands in peculiar re- 
lation to the many objects of nature and experience. Thorough 
understanding of its laws gives thorough understanding of the 
proper place and connection of all material phenomena. These 

^"IJature , etc.: The Transcendentalist . 


lawa therefore serve as a supreme means of olassif ioation. At the 
same time, the process may be reversed and the laws may in turn be 
arrived at by a proper attitude towards any material object. From 
every fact, from every object in Nature, it is possible to make gen- 
eralizations regarding the class of facts or objects represented by 
the particular fact or object, or regarding other natural facts, or 
even regarding spiritual laws. In a drop of water, for instance, 
are concealed oceanic, physiological, universal, and eternal truths. 
From the many the One is deduced; in variety identity is apparent; 
the All is in each. 

There is an important line of connection between this 
theory of Each and All and the duality which characterizes trans- 
cendentalism, a line which also joins it to the distinction between 
the Understanding and the Reason. It proceeds from this belief: To 
the Reason unity or general law is the supreme concern; to the Under- 
standing only isolated facts have value, facts without reference to 
their high relationships. 

And — of more specific importance stylistically con- 
sidered — there is an obvious tie which binds the theory of the One 
and the Many also to the transcendental writer's use of worldly 
facts as spiritual symbols: "Art expresses the one or the same by 

the different. Thought seeks to know unity in unity; poetry to show 


it by variety; that is, always by an object or symbol." The many 
are vastly inferior to the one; artistically, as a means of making 
the one realizable and concrete, they cannot be neglected. At the 
end of Emerson's J ournal s are written these lines from Poesis Humana , 
by his disciple, William Allingham: 

Representative Men : Plato . 

- - 

"It shows in little much ; 
And by an artful touch 
Conveys the hint of all." 

Understanding and Reason; faot as faot and fact as symbol; 
the many and the One, with their relationship to the idealist's 
attitude and his expression—all these corollaries have a basic 
dependence on the fundamental duality of transcendalism. The sub- 
sequent chapters will show how this duality and its attendant prin- 
ciples control Emerson's notions about style, how they determine 
his theories and practice both with regard to structural method and 
with regard to diction. 

Artistic unity of structure is with Emerson a thing de- 
sired, but, unfortunately, a thing impossible of attainment. For 
Unity is with him spiritual as well as artistic; and unless his 
utterances relate themselves plainly to a scheme which is not a 
temporary makeshift but the scheme of the universe, he prefers to 
parallel them merely rather than force them into order and connection, 
He will not deal with the high inspirations of the Reason according 
to the methods of the Understanding. So long as he is serving the 
high cause of spiritual truth, he quite regardlessly sacrifices the 
infirm reader's craving for form and transitions. 

He is forced to this not only by his thorough conviction 
that his utmost is to retail the eternal gossip for an hour, but also 
by his ambition to compile a natural history of the intellect. This 
ambition is the result of a zeal to imitate Bacon, modified in the 
direction of individualism by the example of Montaigne and the en- 
couragement to self-reliance given by transcendentalism. As a re- 
sult, he keeps journals, in which he records daily his momentary 


inspirations, and from these scattered utterances he composes his 
essays, his poems, his lectures, all his works. Here, he "believes, 
is the only means open to him by which he can deliver in its purity 
the high spiritual thought which has come to him. 

Thoroughly adequate combination and proportion of these 
fragments is, of course, impossible, though Emerson's success in 
assembling them is remarkable considering the circumstances. Some 
comfort in this situation comes to him from the Each and All theory, 
the very doctrine which has served to prevent him from classifying 
mechanically and practically, and his caused him to adopt the diary 
method in the first place. For it assures him that a lofty system, 
spiritual rather than material in character, is brought about from 
the mere accumulation of these data, since each part in turn epitom- 
izes eternity and since they are, after all, united spiritually as 
the result of their divinity of inspiration and their expression by 
one individual. Fortunately for the audience whose grasp is not 
consummately heavenly or philosophic, Emerson did not always thus 
console himself; but he did so often enough to make some of his 
essays distressingly aphoristic, and some of his poems pleasing be- 
cause of their series of natural symbols or tantalizing because of 
their occasional perfect lines. 

Thus transcendental dualism, especially the theory of Each 
and All, dominates Emerson's structural method. Hot less profound 
and far-reaching is its influence on his theories and practice with 
regard to diction. 

The symbol is the idealist's chief means of communication; 
he thus rides on material things as the horses of his thought. 
Hence the symbol has its share in all the things that the trans- 

cendentalist considers good in expression; it is the inevitable 
constituent of poetry; the highest product of Reason and the Imagi- 
nation. The correspondence between the natural and the spiritual 
which gives it this value makes it both man's language and God's. 
So it is that the man who lives close to Nature lives close to God 
and to divine inspiration and expression, and clothes his thoughts 
in figures which, by their trailing clouds of glory, attest their 
spiritual origin. 

Though the symbol is preeminent in Emerson's theory of 
expression, its use cannot be completely comprehended without con- 
sideration also of its relation to the material things whose names 
it bears. Frequently, Emerson views expression as fitted to repre- 
sent now the actual and now the ideal, and cleaves sharply between 
the two. But more often his purpose is to unite the actual and the 
ideal, to drive tandem the earthly and the heavenly, or, if you like, 
to hitch his wagon to a star. Such style he believes satisfactory 
to both sense and spirit; universal in its scope because it includes 
both poles of thought, the Reason and the Understanding. 

These are general requirements. More specific is his 
insistence on adequacy, his demand for the right word and symbol in 
the right place. This is a requirement not easy to comply with, as 
he himself acknowledges, since it involves the attempt to keep in 
constant adjustment the relation between Nature and Spirit, the tv/o 
sources from which his expression is drawn. 

The same duality has another significant effect in con- 
nection with the tneory of Each and All, and here is the explanation 
of Emerson's choice of vocabulary. From the fact that his language 
is homely as well a3 rich, his audience, which on the side of struc- 


ture has few helps, is here conspicuously assisted. Since every 
object in Nature and every experience is inclusive and typical of 
eternity, any kind of material thing, and, in fact, the more common 
the better, is useful as substance for the transcendental writer. 
For him the simple, the everyday, in nature and in life, is capable 
of taking on divinity. And accordingly, that which is most fre- 
quently used for expressing the material fact — the idiomatic racy 
language of universal human experience, exact in its economy and 
caution — serves nobly also as the prophet's chariot of fire. 

Finally, sources and causes need to be considered. How 
did Emerson come to hold these theories of literary expression? 
From many quarters — Swedenborg, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Bacon, and 
Plato in especial — he gained encouragement for his innate dualism, 
and confidence in the sacred character of the symbol. With this he 
merged his increasing fondness for the simple and homely in style, 
his desire to make the usual word and thing do unusual stylistic 
work, and his wish to bend and shape the earthly to spiritual pur- 
poses. And here the influence of Montaigne and of sixteenth and 
seventeenth century English Platonists, as well as the independence 
bred by transcendentalism, has a part to play in affecting native 

Though I shall try to show that transcendental dualism 
gives unified meaning to Emerson's comments on style, there is t I 
recognize, something false and unfair in the impression made by 
grouping according to any sort of plan that which was written with- 
out plan. In spite of the fact that philosophical theory recurs 
constantly as the basis for Emerson's discussions of style, he did 
not, if the truth be told, reduce and constrain them to these 

theories. The real value of this compilation must be, as I have 
said before, that it gathers in convenient form some of the concrete 
pertinent, and entertaining things that Emerson has to say about the 
living process of writing. The reader, then, should feel at all 
times perfectly free to throw off the straitjacket of theory and 
transition and read as one who is interested in writing for writing' 
sake . 



During a lecture in England, one of Emerson's hearers 
leaned over to his neighbor and inquired, "What's the connection?" 
"There is none, save in Cod," was the answer. This reply is ex- 
cellent criticism of the structure of Emerson's essays. It finds 
fault justly; if the connection is divine, our yearning to know 
vhat it is should be satisfied. And with censure, the reply mingles 
due praise. It is, after all, much that the connection should be 
in God: this would hardly be the case but for the fact that the 
thoughts reauiring connection are themselves holy. 

Such lack of obvious relationship as is pointed to by the 
anecdote is due to Emerson's belief in the dualism inherent in 
transcendentalism. The truths which his Reason perceives, beyond 
conciousness snd experience, have a connection in God which it is 
difficult for mortal eye to see constantly and completely, and which 
it is all the more difficult to express. Yet for Emerson merely 
earthly connection, transition for transition's sake, will not suf- 
fice in such cases. Here, then, is an important effect of trans- 
cendental dualism on Emerson's method of writing. There are other 
results, too, proceeding from the general division between the seen 

and the unseen; and from its corollary doctrine of Each and All, 
ifcich is determinant in matters affecting organisations because it 

concerns itself with the relation of spiritual integers to detach 

earthly fractions. 

To see definitely how these conceptions affect Emerson's 


ideas with regard to structure in literary composition, especially 
his own, it is necessary in the first place to take into account his 
Journals and note viiat influences exerted themselves there on his 
methods of writing. 

Even before he had reached sixteen he began the keeping 
of a literary diary or commonplace book. His first purpose was 
simply that of gaining practice in writing and of collecting from 
other writers passages pleasing by reason of their matter or manner. 
Gradually this became joined with a vague intention of gathering the 
wisdom of his age through both quotation and original presentation 
of current ideas. A strong youthful admiration for Bacon and for 
his experimental philosophical method, especially as applied to 
morals, suggested to Emerson the possibility of thus taking as his 
om province contemporary philosophical knowledge. In May 1824, at 
the age of 21, he had gone far enough in consideration of this life 
aim, to set down in his Journals his emulous hope. After mentioning 
as examples Pope's Moral Essays and Essay on Man, the Proverbs of 
Solomon, and Montaigne's Essays (which he had not yet read) he says 
as modestly as the circumstance permitted; "I am not so hardy as to 
write Sequel to Bacon - on my title-page; and there are some reasons 
that induce me to suppose that the undertaking of this enterprise 
does not imply any censurable arrogance. .. It may be made clear 
that there may be a Y/isdom of an Age, independent of and above the 
Wisdom of any individual whose life is numbered in its years. And 
the diligence rather than the genius of one mind may compile the 
prudential maxims, domestic and public maxims current in the world 
and which may be made to surpass the single stores of any writer, 


as the richest private funds are quickly exceeded by a public 
purse ." 1 

This ambition continued through Emerson's life, but in a 

modified form. For soon the humble gatherer of other men's opinions 

acquired self-reliance. The trust company combined its affairs with 


a "savings-bank," which accumulated miscellaneous wealth subject 
only to the test that it be genuine currency fresh every day from 
the Emersonian mint. Many causes helped to bring this about. The 
voices of Channing, Coleridge, Carlyle and--through the latter two-- 
Kant and Goethe proclaimed that the voice of God could still be 
heard, and that inspiration was still possible; and thus encouraged 
both religious and literary independence. Emerson's indomitably 
individual Aunt Mary did much in the same direction by precept and 
example. And his own withdrawal from the church and trip to Europe 
with accompanying disappointment at celebrities whom he met com- 
pleted the work of emancipation. 

These influences are important, but they perhaps do not 
so directly affect the contents of the Journals as another influence 
which has never received its full credit, that of Montaigne. "In 
1825, in Roxbury," Emerson tells us, "I read Cotton's translation of 
Montaigne. It seemed to me as if I had written the book myself in 
some former life, so sincerely it spoke my life and experience, No 
book before or since was ever so much to me as that."^ It seems 
more than likely that thus, the next year after Emerson heralded 
his intention of bringing together all contemporary copybook know- 
ledge, Bacon partly gave way to a new hero, a hero whose example 

1 Jour. I. 392-3. 2 Jour. Ill, 246. 3 Jour. VI, 372-3. 



stimulated him to a paradoxical but real mixture of self-reliance, 
desire to imitate, and desire to excel. Montaigne, like Bacon, has 
the spirit of inquiry; but his inquiry is personal and based on 
individual experience. His preface makes this clear enough to most 
readers, and probably made it clear to Emerson. In regard to him, 
Emerson wrote to his Aunt Mary in 1831; "No effeminate parlor work- 
man is he on an idea got at an evening lecture or a young men* s de» 
bate, but roundly tells what he saw or what he thought of when he 
was riding on horseback or entertaining a troop at his chateau. "^ 
And with more spirituality, this is precisely what Emerson was at 
this time gaining confidence to do; so that the Journals become more 
and more the record of high daily inspiration meekly received--in 
recognition of what Emerson considered its divine source--but boldly 
imparted. That Emerson regarded himself as a follower of Montaigne, 
though with a difference, a significant passage in the Journals in 
1835 bears witness. In it he enumerates his stock of ideas, and 
reminds himself of his intention of writing essays. And he begins 
with this question; "When will you mend Montaigne?" 2 He, too, 
wishes to use his own experiences, thoughts, and feelings as the 
substance of his writings; but for a higher, holier purpose. 

The father of the essay was also the father of Emerson's 
essays. But another parent, the father of the English essay, has 
almost paternal claims on them. The impulse which Bacon had fostered 
still survived; Emerson still wished to assemble "a cumulative moral 
and intellectual science." In 1835 he shows by a record in the 
Journals that the hope of eleven years before was yet alive. "By 

^•Representative Men, 336. 2 Jour. Ill, 480, 



and by, H he says, "books of condensed wisdom may be writ by the 
concentrated lights of thousands of centuries which shall cast 
Bacon and Aristotle in gloom." 1 A change has come in hi3 purpose 
only in the fact that now his contribution is to be self-derived 
or at least self- tested. The continuance of his aim, thus modified, 
is shown in the course of lectures which he delivered at Harvard in 
1870, later published under the title; Natural History of the Intel- 
lect , 

The change, however, has an important effect on his 
literary procedure. Whatever might have been the chance for regulated^ 
homogeneity otherwise, by keeping Bacon* s experimental method and 
joining with it the recording of personal "anecdotes of the intel- 
lect, " writing "a sort of Farmers Almanac of mental moods M ^--he 
prevents himself from ever arriving at a philosophical system. And 
in the same way he makes it difficult to arrive at organization and 
continuity in the essays which collect these anecdotes. We shall 
see later how much he wished to avoid this difficulty; but how, when 
it proved insuperable, he found some reasons for being contented with 
his endless dotting, as he described it. 

Thus both Bacon and Montaigne had their share in influenc- 
ing the organization of Emerson* s essays. In cooperation with the 
impersonal but strong aid of the Each and All theory, Bacon affects 
it in two other even more definite ways. The first of these needs 
little more than mention. Emerson's paragraphs, as Professor Fir- 
kins has pointed out, often hold together well because they have the 

1 2 

Jour . III. 518-9. Natural History of Intellect : Powers and Laws of 
T houg h t. 


parallelism -which results from his habit of collecting examples or 
symbolic illustrations of a dominating principle; and the same is 
true even of some of the essays. It is easy to see how this habit 
is itself caused by joining emulation of Bacon's inductive method 
with the wish to show identity in variety. 

But Bacon suggested to Emerson something of far more im- 
portance than the value of psychological generalization. He had a 
spiritual as well as scientific influence. Compilation of such data 
is not enough; to be truly of worth they must be seen in the light of 
the universal laws whi ch govern them. Ignorance of these laws is 
ignorance of the real import of the individual facts. Furthermore, 
these universal principles are not empirical; though they serve a 
deductive, classifying purpose, they are major premises which have 
been realized intuitively and not through laborious experiment. Such 
premises belong to what Bacon called the First Philosophy. "Bacon, • 
says Emerson in his chapter on Literature in English Traits , * ., 
required in his map of the mind, first of all, universality, or 
prima philosophia ; the receptacle for all such profitable observations 
and axioms as fall not within the compass of any of the special parts 
of philosophy, but are more common and of a higher stage. He held 
this element essential: ,. believing that no perfect discovery can 
be made in a flat or level, but you must ascend to a higher science. 

He explained himself by giving various quaint examples of the 
summary or common laws of which each science has its own illus- 
tration. .. Plato had signified the same sense, when he said 'All 
the great arts require a subtle and speculative research into the 
law of nature, since loftiness of thought and perfect mastery over 

every subject seem to be derived from some such source as this. 1 " 
In the Journals, in 1830, Emerson writes that Bacon* s prima philo - 
sophia is "that generalization which gives the elevation to all the 
writings of Burke, of De Stael, and now of Sampson Reed."* 

The alignment of the prima philosophia with ideal dualism 
is plain. Indeed, as early as 1835 Emerson had defined the prima 
philosophia as M the science of what is, in distinction from vhat 
appears. 1 * The Reason only is capable of seeing and uttering the 
laws of the First Philosophy; for they are supersensuous, the lofty 
principles which pervade and unite the messages of the Oversoul. 
Plato and the Platonists have enunciated most of them. M In England 
these may be traced usually to Shakspeare, Bacon, Milton, or Hooker, 
even to Van Helmont and Behmen, and do all have a kind of filial 
retrospect to Plato and the Greeks 

The relation betweenthe prima philosophia and the scattered 
facts to which it gives meaning is, furthermore, not very different 
from the relation between the One and the Many, between All and Each, 
to use Emerson* s nomenclature. According to this, too, particular 
facts are valuable only as spiritual units illuminate them. Once 
more, Bacon and the Each and All theory join hands. 

Both the effect of dualism on writing, and Emerson's be- 
lief than an author* s noblest aim should be to make his own contri- 
bution to the First Philosophy, come out plainly in a letter to 

Jour, II t 331. Emerson's Swedenborgian friend, of whom more is 
said in the chapter on The Growth of Emerson* s Theories of Style. 
English Traits . 380 . 5 English Traits; Literature . 


Carlyle written in 1859. After expressing his gratification at 
what Carlyle has already done in literature, he says; "Yet that book 
will not come which I most wish to read, namely, the culled results, 
the quintessence of private conviction, a liber veritatis . a few 
sentences, hints of the final moral you drew from so much penetrat- 
ing inquest into past and present men. All writing is necessitated 
to be exoteric, and written to a human should instead of to the 
terrible is_. ., Every writer is a skater, who must go partly 
where he would, and partly where the skates carry him; or a sailor, 
who can only land where sails can be safely blown. The variations 
to be allowed for in the sailor's compass are nothing like so large 
as those that must be allowed for in every book." But, Emerson goes 
on to say, "passion for euphony, and surface harmonies, and tender- 
ness for accidental literary stores" are as nothing compared to 
what a writer has to say "touching the problems of man and fate and 
the Cause of Causes. .. So," he finishes, "if ever I hear that 
you have betrayed the first symptom of age .. I shall hasten to 
believe that you are shearing your tropical undergrowths and are 
calling your troops to the citadel, and I may come in the first 
steamer to drop in of evenings and hear the fatal monosyllables,"^" 
The conceptions of the prima philosophia and of Each and 
All, as well as transcendental dualism in general, have important 
effects on Emerson's theory and practice with regard to compositional 
structure. It is desirable, however, to preface consideration of 
these with some discussion of Emerson's problem of organization and 
of his artistic theories regarding method and unity in writing. 

1 C. B. Corr. II, 297. 

From the Journals came all the Works, so that it was 
Emerson* s task, as he tells Carlyle, "to spin some single cord out 
of ray thousand and one strands of every color and texture that lie 
ravelled round me in old snarls. 1 * 1 Paragraphs, even sentences, 
written years apart, were pieced together in the completed essays. 
Any such method must have its grave limitations; continuity and 
unity of tone and thought are difficult, if not impossible, to 
achieve under such conditions. Yet comparison of the Journals with 
the essays shows that the patchworking process has been remarkably 
successful considering the number and variety of pieces in the 
completed quilts. Such a careful and discriminating reader as 
Professor .Firkins asserts that "method, in some form or degree, is 
universal in Emerson. " 

Indeed, it would be strange if this were not the case. 
For in theory, at least, there is no doubt that Emerson was fully 
aware of and believed in the most artistic kind of coherence, unity, 
and proportion. It is true that in his search for adequacy of ex- 
pression, he kept close to the bird of his thought while it was on 
the wing, and without stopping it in its flight, recorded the very 
notes of its song. Yet he did not hesitate, when the connection of 
thoughts set down in his journals at different times became clear 
to him to join these related ideas. **Let not a man," he says, "de- 
cline being an artist under any greenhorn notion of intermeddling 
with sacred thought. It is surely foolish to adhere strictly to the 

order of time in putting down one* s thoughts, and to neglect the 


order of thought. I put like things together." "The art of writ- 
C. E. Corr. I, 308. 2 Jour . IV. 246. 


ing consists in putting two things together that are unlike and 
that belong together, like a horse and cart. Then have we somewhat 
more goodly and efficient than either." 

Unity nnd proportion, too, Emerson regarded as of prime 
importance in writing as in other forms of art, for "Art, in the 
artist, is proportion, or a. hibitual respect to the whole by an eye 
loving beauty in details." 2 He approves of "Couture' s rule of 
looking three times at the object, for one at your drawing .. ; 
and William Hunt's emphasis, after him, on the mass, instead of the 
details'. And how perfectly .. , " he exclaims, "the same rule 
applies in rhetoric or writing 1 , "3 "It is well and truly said," is 
his comment elsewhere, "that proportion is beauty; that no ornament 
in the details can compensate for want of this; nay, that ornamented 
details only make disproportion more unsightly; and that proportion 
charms us even more perhaps when the materials are coarse and un- 
adorned. I see these truths chiefly in that species of architecture 
which I study and practice, namely, Rhetoric, or the Building of 
Discourse. Profoundest thoughts, sublime images, dazzling figures 
are squandered and lost in an unmethodical harangue. We are fatigued, 
and glad when it is done. We say of the writer, llobody understood 
him; he does not understand himself. But let the same number of 
thoughts be dealt with by a natural rhetoric, let the question be 
asked- -What is said? How many things? Which are they? Count and ■ 
number them: put together those that belong together. Now say what 
your subj ect is , for now first you know: and now state your inference 
in what calm or inflammatory temper you must, and behold', out of the 

1 £our. IV, 483. 2 Essays II; Nominalist and Realist . 5 Jour . X, 335. 

quarry you have erected a temple, soaring in due gradation, turret 
over tower, to heaven, cheerful with thorough- lights, majestic with 
strength, desired of all eyes."^ 

Emerson's attitude toward artistic organization comes out 
interestingly in his attitude toward eix tempore speeches. Though he 
yearned all his life for the intensity which would fuse thoughts and 
words and make unprepared delivery possible, he almost never trusted 
himself to such inspiration. And from the esthetic point of view he 
saw great advantages in preparation. "Extempore speaking can be 
good, and written discourses can be good," he s?$rs. "A tent is a 
very good thing, but so is a cathedral," 2 In the speech on The 
Assault on Mr. Sumner he says; "And the third crime he stands charged 
with, is, that his speeches were written before they were spoken; 
which of course must be true in Sumner's case, as it was true of 
Webster, of Adams, of Calhoun, of Burke, of Chatham, of Demosthenes; 
of every first-rate speaker that ever lived. It is the high compli- 
ment he pays to the intelligence of the senate and of the country. 
When the same reproach was cast on the first orator of ancient times 
by some caviler of his day, he said, 'I should be ashamed to come 
with one unconsidered word before such an assembly .' 

Could Emerson recognize lack of artistic organization tfsn 
he met with it? He found deficient in this respect Landor, Bacon, 
Goethe, and Milton. Landor "has not the high, overpowering method 
by which the master gives unity and integrity to a work of many 
parts,"* Bacon's work "is fragmentary; lacks unity. It lies along 

1 Jour, IV, 535-6. 2 Jour . V, 236. ^Miscellanies ; The Assault upon 
Mr , Sumner, ^Natural Hi story of Intellect ; Walter Savage Landor . 

the ground like the materials of an unfinished city."" 1. Of Goethe, 
he says; "This lawgiver of art is not an artist . Was it that he 
knew too much, that his sight was microscopic and interfered with 
the just perspective, the seeing of the whole? He is fragmentary; 
a writer of occasional poems and of an encyclopaedia of sentences. 
When he sits down to write a drama or a tale, he collects and sorts 
his observations from a hundred sides, and combines them into the 
body as fitly as he can. A great deal refuses to incorporate: this 
he adds loosely as letters of the parties, leaves from their journals 
or the like. A great deal still is left that will not find any 
place. This the bookbinder alone can give any cohesion to; and 
hence, notwithstanding the looseness of many of his works, we have 
volumes of detached paragraphs, aphorisms, Xenien, &c." 2 On Milton* 8 
prose writings, the Areopagitica excepted, he has this comment to 
make: "Their rhetorical excellence must also suffer some deduction. 
They have no perfectness. These writings are wonderful for the 
truth, the learning, tne subtility, and pomp of the language, but 
the whole is sacrificed to the particular. Eager to do fit justice 
to each thought, he does not subordinate it so as to project the 
main argument. He writes whilst he is heated; the piece shows all 
the rambles and resources of indignation, but he has never inte- 
grated the parts of the argument in his mind. The reader is fa- 
tigued with admiration, but is not yet master of the subject. 1,3 
In this illustrious company of weaklings, Alcott may be 

1 Memoir II, 720. ^ Representative Men ; Goethe . Natural History 
of Intellect : Milton . 


introduced if only to show that this kind of frailty affects the 
email as well as the great. "The Post expresses the feeling of 
most readers in its rude joke, when it said of his Orphic Sayings 
that they ' resembled a train of fifteen railroad cars with one 
passenger . 1 

Perhaps the surest test of Emerson's critical ability in 
regard to method is his attitude toward his own delinquencies. He 
is his own severest critic. It is he who makes the unjust charge 
that he writes "paragraphs incompressible, each sentence an infinite- 
ly repellent particle." 2 He uses many clever metaphors to describe 
his weakness. After speaking of his tendency to "the lapidary 
style", he says; "I build my house of boulders; somebody asked me 
if I built of medals."'-' He writes again to Carlyle; "I get a 
brick-kiln instead of a house." 4 »i found," he confesses to him- 
self, "when I had finished my new lecture that it was a very good 
house, only the architect had unfortunately omitted the stairs." 5 
He is as modest in his public writing; "In our present attempt to 
enumerate some traits of the recent literature, we shall have some- 
what to offer on each of these topics, but we cannot promise to set 
in very exact order what we have to say ."6 "I shall attempt in this 
and the following chapter to record some facts that indicate the 
path of the law of compensation; happy beyond my expectation if I 

i jour . VI, 171. 2 C.E. Cprr . I, 161. Sc.E. Corr . I, 376. 
4 C.a. Co rr . I, 525. 5 Jour . VIII, 167. %a,tural History of 
Intellect : Papers from the Dial, Thoughts on Modern Literature . 

shall truly draw the smallest arc of this circle/ 1 M I know better," 
he says in Experience? "than to claim any completeness for my 
picture. I am a fragment, and this is a fragment of me, I can very 
confidently announce one or another law, which throws itself into 
relief and form, but I am too young yet by some ages to compile a 
code. I gossip for my hour concerning the eternal politics," 

He does not, however, merely acknowledge this weakness 
and find consolation in conviction of futility. He prays for im- 
provement. "If Minerva offered me a gift and an option," he writes, 
"I would say give me continuity. I am tired of scraps. I do not 
wish to be a literary or intellectual chiffonier. Away with this 
Jew's rag-bag of ends and tufts of brocade, velvet, and cloth-of- 
gold; let me spin some yards- or miles of helpful twine, a clew to 
lead to one kingly truth, a cord to bind wholesome and belonging 
facts , 

The Asmodaean feat be mine 
To spin my sand heaps into twine." 
It is certain that Emerson wished to show the relations 
of the parts of his writings to each other and their relation to the 
whole. The difficulty was that for him the whole is the Unity which 
governs the universe. In this broad sense, he desired to make clear 
the relation of the particular to the universal, but he did not 
always feel certain that he knew what that relation was. Concerning 
definitions he says that they can be hoped for "only from a mind 
conversant with the First Philosophy. ., Mr. Landor's definitions 

^ Essays I: Compensation , ^s says II_. S Jo ur . VIII. 463. 


are only enumerations of particulars; the generic law is not 
seized," 1 Emerson had a mind conversant with the First Philosophy, 
hut he did not always feel certain that he had seized the generic 
law. The prima philosophia and the Each and All theory thus affect 
his organization, Por in matching passages from his diary, though 
he was sure that the passages belonged to the same subject, he was 
not always sure of the connection between them. Rather than put 
in a false, superficial connection, he preferred to put in none. 
His failure to organize his compositions more lucidly is, then, due 
to the same cause as his failure to erect what, in any sense, may be 
called a system of philosophy. He found little beauty or utility 
in a chain of which some of the links, though speciously as firm as 
the others, are really only alloy makeshifts to hold together the 
links of pure metal. His lack of organization results not from in- 
ability as far as giving the appearance of method was concerned, 
but from his unwillingness to group things in a certain order when 
he was not confident that it was, in the highest sense, the right 

If, on the other hand, he had been able to arrange his 
ideas in such form as to bring out their true connection with each 
other, there is no doubt that he would gladly have done so. He be- 
lieved that the power to organize truly and not merely wi th ingenuity 
was one of the marks of genius; "There is a certain momentum of mass 
which I recognize readily enough in literature," he declares. "Chau- 
cer affects me i/shen I read many pages of the Canterbury Tales by his 

Natural Histo ry of Intellect ; Walter Savage Landor . 


mass, as much as by the merit of single passages. So does Shake- 
speare eminently: he adds architecture to costliness of material, 
and beauty of single chambers and chapels. So does Milton. Then, 
as I have remarked of Py thagoras, so I feel in reference to all 
great masters, that they are chiefly distinguished by their power of 
adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous 
line. Many a man had taken their first step. With every additional 
step you enhance immensely the value of your first. It is like the 
price which is sometimes set on a horse by jockeys; a price is 
agreed upon in the stall, and then he is turned into a pasture and 
allowed to roll, and for every time he shall roll himself over, ten 
dollars are added to the price." ^ 

One and only one kind of philosophical system satisfies 
Emerson: that which is all-inclusive and that which rests firmly on 
dualism, which has as its wellspring the First Philosophy. Rounded 
system is desirable, but it is hard to attain. "Nothing is more 
carefully secured in our constitution than that we shall not sys- 
tematize or integrate too fast. Carry it how we will, always some- 
thing refuses to be subordinated and to drill.. It will not toe 
the line. The facts of animal magnetism are now extravagant. We 
can make nothing of them. What then? Why, own that you are a 
tyro. We make a dear little cosmogony of our own that makes the 
world, and tucks in all nations like cherries into a tart--and 'tis 
all finished and rounded into compass and shape; but unluckily we 
find that it will not explain the existence of the African race."^ 
And in another passage Emerson says: "I confess to a little dis- 

jJour . VI, 155-6. 2 Jour . IV, 294. 


trust of that completeness of system which metaphysicians are apt to 
affect, ' Tis the gnat grasping the world. All these exhaustive 
theories appear indeed a false and vain attempt to introvert and 
analyze the Primal Thought, That is up-stream, and what a stream*. 
Can you swim up Niagara Falls?"^* 

Only the idealist has any chance of avoiding this dif- 
ficulty, "Every fact studied by the Understanding is not only 
solitary but desart. But if the iron lids of Reason's eye can be 

once raised, the fact is classified immediately and seen to be re- 


lated to our nursery reading and our profoundest science. H "It 
will not do for Sharon Turner, or any man not of ideas to make a 
System. Thus, Mr, Turner had got into his head the notion that the 
Mosaic history is a good natural history of the world, reconcilable 
with geology, etc. Very well. You see at once the length and 
breadth of what you may expect, and lose all appetite to read. But 
Coleridge sets out to idealize the actual, to make an epopaea out of 
English institutions, and it is replete with life ."3 And Plato, 
though his "vision is not illimitable," nevertheless "codifies and 
catalogues and distributes" so that "in his broad daylight things 
reappear as they stood in the sunlight, hardly shorn of a ray, yet 
now portable and reportable." 4 

What is true of philosophy is likewise true of writing. 
The author who "works ,. in the spirit of a cabinet-maker, rather 
than that of an architect" presents "the thought which strikes him as 

^- Natural History of Intellect ; Powers and Laws of Thought . 
2jour. Ill, 529. Sjour. Ill, 567. 4 Jour. VIII, 45. 

great and Dantesque, and opens an abyss. . . transformed into a 
chamber or neat parlor." He lacks the necessary universal grasp, 
and thus "degrades ideas. ""^ History has usually been written by 
such inefficient writers. "Let us learn," Emerson urges, "with the 
patience and affection of a naturalist all the facts, and looking 
out all the time for the reason that was, for the law that pre- 
vailed, and made the facts such; not for one that we can supply and 
make the facts plausibly sustain. .. Why should not history be 
godly written, out of the highest Faith and with a study of what 
really was? We should then have Ideas which would command and mar- 
shal the facts, and show the history of a nation as accurately pro- 
portional and necessary in every part as an animal."** 

According to Emerson's definition, classicism is but 
another name for the kind of executive power which is caused by 
vision of controlling ideal principles. "The classic unfolds; the 
romantic adds," he says, discriminating between the appearance of 
organization and the real thing. Classicism sees all facts and 
incidents and thoughts as but offshoots of a high and life-giving 
central purpose. Eugene Sue and Dumas he considers by this test 
romantic; scott (in one novel) and Shakspeare (in at least one play) 
classic. The first two "when they begin a story, do not know when 
it will end; but Walter Scott when he began the Bride of Lammermoor 
had no choice, nor Shakspeare in Macbeth And he considers that 
"George Sand, though she writes fast and miscellaneously, is yet 
fundamentally classic and necessitated; and I," he says, "who tack 

1 Jour. VI. 73-4. 2 Jo ur . V, 67 


things strangely enough together, and consult my ease rather than 
my strength, and often write on the other side , am yet an adorer 
of the One ." 1 

The ideal system must, of course, be genuine, and it is 
Emerson's advice to "Shun manufacture, or the introducing and 
artificial arrangement in your thoughts-- it will surely crack and 
come to nothing."* What, then, are to be the actions of the writer 
who is seeking the high kind of unity which Emerson advocates? What, 
especially, is the writer to do who keeps a diurnal record of 
thoughts just as they happen to occur to him? How is he to get 
"high enough above" his materials "to see their order in reason" and 
to be able to "manage or dispose"? His problem and his right course 
of action Emerson thus outlines: "There is a process in the mind 
very analogous to crystallization in the mineral kingdom. I think 
of a particular fact of singular beauty and interest. In thinking 
of it I am led to many more thoughts which show themselves, first 
partially, and afterwards more fully. But in the multitude of them 
I see no order. When I would present them to others they have no 
beginning. There is no method. Leave them now, and return to them 
again. Domesticate them in your mind, do not force them into 
arrangement too hastily, and presently you will find they will take 
their own order. And the order they assume is divine. It is God^ 
architecture." 4 And to the same effect he says in another passage: 
"Any single fact considered by itself confounds, misleads us. Let 

^Jour. IX, 25. 2 Jo ur . Ill, 54 9 - 50 . 3 Jour. IX, 520 
4 Jour. II, 446. 


it lie awhile. It will find its place, by and by, in God's chain; 
its golden brothers will come, one on the right hand and one on the 
left, and in an instant it will be the simplest, gladdest, friend- 
liest of things." 1 

Writing so organized, in the "natural order", as Emerson 
calls it, will prove the most satisfactory to writer and reader. 
"If a natural order is obediently followed, the composition will 
have an abiding charm to yourself as well as to others; you will 
see that you were the scribe of a higher wisdom than your own, and 
it will remain to you, like one of Nature's works, pleasant and whole 

some, and not, as our books so often are, a disagreeable remembrance 

to the author." 

Not only must the system have a divine origin, but its 
means of connection must also be spiritual, truly representative of 
high thinking. Of Landor Emerson says that "whatever skill of 
transition he may possess is superficial, not spiritual."** And in 
general he declares that "a continuous effect cannot be produced 
by discontinuous thought, and when the eye cannot detect the junc- 
ture of the skilful mosaic, the spirit is apprised of disunion, 
simply by the failure to affect the spirit. "4 The writer must not 
sink to cohere. "The mark of genius is, that it has not only 
thoughts, but the copula that joins them is also a thought."^ 

1 Jour. V, 79. 2 Jour . IV, 336. Natural Histor y of Intellect ; 
Walter Savage Landor . %atural Hist ory of Intellect^ Instinct 
and Inspiration . S jpur . IX. 67-8, 

Shortly before the first series of Essays was ready for 
the printer, Emerson vented in his journal hie disgust at the 
apparent necessity of making concessions in this direction: "I 
have been writing with some pains essays on various maoters as a 
sort of apology to my country for my apparent idleness. But the 
poor work has looked poorer daily, as I strove to end it. My genius 
seemed to quit me in such a mechanical work, a seeming wise--a cold 
exhibition of dead thoughts. When I write a letter to anyone whom 
I love, I have no lack of words or thoughts. I am wiser than myself 
and read my paper with the pleasure of one who receives a letter, 
but what I write to fill up the gaps of a chapter is hard and cold, 
is grammar and logic; there is no magic iii it; I do not wish to 
see it again, Two months later, on New Year's Day, 1841, a record 
in the journals shows that he has reached the conclusion that no 
transition is better than sham transition, "I begin the year by 
sending my little book of essays to the press. What remains to be 
done to its imperfect chapters I will seek to do justly, I see no 
reason why we may not write with as much grandeur of spirit as we 
may serve or suffer. Let the page be filled with the character, not 
with the skill of the author." 2 

.Bacon's prima philosophia , being congruent both with the 
transcendental distinction between that which seems and that which is, 
and also with the relation between Each and All, has thus stretched 
a long hand over the centuries to affect the structure of a Yankee 
philosopher's essays. With their aid it has given him the high am- 

'Jour. V. 469. ^Jour. V. 506, 

bition to see all facts as shot through with the golden thread of 
spiritual unity. Whenever his vision has failed him, and he has 
been unable to follow the intricate course of the weaving, staunch 
Puritan hcnesty has prevented him from substituting an inferior 
pattern in his own attempts to copy the wo rk of the Divine Designer. 

In regard to the question of form in Emerson's essays 
Professor Firkins says: "The pure or abstract essays are of looser 
fabric than the works strongly tinctured with concrete fact or 
practical import. w What clearer indication could there be of the 
influence of transcendental dualism on Emerson's method? In dealing 
with the material, a material form of organization can be quickly 
arrived at. In dealing with the spiritual a thousand- and- one dif- 
ficulties, which we have suggested, hamper the author who seeks 
system. We can count on plan in an essay on Experience; we can 
hardly look for an obviously well-rounded essay on the Oversoul. 
And in the former of these essays, indeed, Emerson, before proceeding 
to his definitely arrived at conclusion, carefully reminds his 
reader of the subtopics which he has discussed. In the latter he can 
offer only an indefinitely merged series of "hints", which in this 
case certainly, because of the nature of the subject, have their 
principal connection in God, 

In the midst of defeat of his desire to see identity in 

all kinds of variety, Emerson at times found consolation and even 

the hope of a certain kind of victory, though eternal truth rather 

than the mortal reader is the chief gainer thereby, J3y omitting 

the unmeant mechanical transition, he obtained for one thing, the 

energizing effect of the pause, concerning which we shall speak 



in the section on Compression, These breaks may well oe regarded 
as what Dr. Edward Emerson calls "intervals for the electric spark 
to pass and thrill the reader But more important is the assurance 
which the Each and All theory gives him. By way of making ma ends 
for the stringent requirements it exacts from the philosopher or 
writer who is attempting to make a system, it gives aid and comfort 
to the person who has relinquished this idea because of his feel- 
ing of incapacity. Eo r if, on the one hand, it insists that no 
organization can suffice which is not built upon the basis of a com- 
plete understanding of the relation of the Many to the One, it de- 
clares, on the other hand, that the Infinite is enclosed in every 
particle and system is after all unnecessary. Thus the same theory 
pulls in two different directions: it makes organization desirable 
but difficult; and it declares any such effort useless. 

Two passages from the journals have already been given 
which express Emerson's views regarding the organization of the 
First Series of Essays . The first of these, it will be recalled, 
deals with the difficulties he found in writing suitable transitions; 
the second implies that honest incontinuity is better than a show of 
structural perfection. Between the dates of these two appears a 
paragraph which shows that he was at this time deriving some con- 
solation from the Each and All theory, which had in this instance 
turned its encouraging cheek and offered so much, at least, of 
solace. After acknowledging his lack of system and his failure to 
come anywhere near completeness in his "Cabinet Encyclopaedia" of 

' Natural History of Intellect , 439 , 


"all the definitions at which the world had yet arrived," he says; 
"At last I discovered that my curve was a parabola whose arcs would 
never meet, and came to acquiesce in the perception that, although 
no diligence can rebuild the universe in a model by the best ac- 
cumulation of disposition of details, yet does the world reproduce 
itself in miniature in every event that transpires, so that all the 

laws of nature may be read in the simplest fact. So that the truth- 
speaker may dismiss .all solicitude as to the proportion and con- 
gruency of the aggregate of his thoughts, so long as he is a faith- 
ful reporter of particular impressions." 1 

writer shall be individual, but he assumes absolutely no personality 
in the writer's audience. He thinks only of the Universal Man with 
the Universal Mind, whose interest is not in the continuous reading 
of an hour, but in the ages long gathering of bits of spiritual in- 
formation. Thus he finds another justification for his practice of 

writing inconsecutively in his journals the thoughts of the day or th< 
moment, in the naturalness and hence the truth of such a method. 
Such thoughts, put together without pretence of system, are likely 
to have a noble unity all their own resulting from the divinity of 
their source. "But you say," he ansv/ers an imaginary critic, "that 
so moving and moved on thoughts and verses, gathered in different 
parts of a long life, you sail no straight line, but are perpetually 
distracted by new and counter currents, and go a little way north, 
then a little way northeast, then a little northwest, then a little 

Alas, poor reader'. Emerson is much concerned that the 

. V, 326-7. 


to the north again, and so on. 

"Be it so: is any motion different? The curve line is 
not a curve, but an infinite polygon. The voyage of the best ship 
is a zigzag line on a hundred tacks. This is only microscopic 
criticism. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it 
straightens itself to the average tendency. All these verses and 
thoughts were as spontaneous at some time to that man as any one was. 
Being so, they were not his own, but above him the voice of simple, 
necessary, aboriginal nature, and coming from so narrow experience 
as one mortal, they must be strictly related, even the farthest 
ends of his life, and, seen at the perspective of a few ages, will 
appear harmonious and univocal 

To the same effect he says, with reference, this time, 
to his inability to philosophize according to a system in the 
ordinary sense, "I cannot myself use that systematic form which is 
reckoned essential in treating the science of the mind. But if 
one can say so without arrogance, I might suggest that he who 
contents himself with dotting a fragmentary curve, recording only 
what facts he has observed, without attempting to arrange them with- 
in one outline, follows a system also, --a system as grand as any oth^fc 
though he does not interfere with its vast curves be prematurely 
forcing them into a circle or ellipse, but only draws that arc which 
he clearly sees, or perhaps at a later observation a remote curve 
of the same orbit, and waits for a new opportunity, well assured that 
these observed arcs will consist with each other ."^ 

^Jour, V, 224-5. ^ Natural History of Intellect ; Powers and Laws of 
Thought . 

Emerson's theories in regard to the organization of prose 
are exactly paralleled by his theories in regard to the structure 
of poetry; consequently discussion of the latter may well serve as 
summary of discussion of the former. Poetry is made from materials 
of similar size to those that make up prose; these require the same 
kind of arrangement. It, too, is composed of particles, the results 
of momentary inspiration, which it is the function of art to synthe- 
size. "A poem should be a blade of Damascus steel, made up of a 
mass of knife-blades and nails, and parts every one of which has had 
its whole surface hammered and wrought before it was welded into 
the sword, to be wrought over anew." 1 "It is as lawful and as be- 
coming for the poet to seize upon felicitous expressions and lay 
them up for use as for Michel Angelo to store his sketch-book with 
hands, arms, triglyphs, and capitals to enrich his future com- 
positions. The wary artist in both kinds will tear down the scaf- 
folding when the work is finished, and himself supply no clue to 
the curiosity that would know how he did the wonder ,"2 

Not only perfect fusion, but unity of design, thought, and 
tone are necessary in poetry as much as in prose. Of his friend, 
Ellery Channing' s verse, Emerson says; "His poetry is like the 
artless whistling of a vireo, which whistles prettily all day and 
all summer in the elm, but never rounds a tune, nor can increase the 
value of a melody by the power of construction and cuneiform deter- 
mination. He must have construction also."^ Unity of thought and 
tone are almost inseparable. "The authentic mark of a new poem" is 

1 Jour. IV. 278. 2 Jour. III. 396. 3 Jpur. IX. 54, 


"the uncontrollable interior impulse which is unanalysable, and 

makes the merit of an ode of Collins, or Gray, or Wordsworth, or 
Herbert, or Byron, --and which is felt in the pervading tone, rather 
than in brilliant parts or lines; as if the sound of a bell, or a 
certain cadence expressed in a low whistle or booming, or humming, 
to which the poet first timed his step, as he looked at the sunset, 
or thought, was the incipient form of the piece, and was regnant 
through the whole. "One genial thought is the source of every 
true poem. I have heard that a unity of this kind pervaded Bee- 
thoven's great pieces in music. And why, but because tone gives 
unity?" 2 

And as Emerson recognized his infirmity in matters of 
form so far as prose was concerned, so he acknowledged his weakness 
in the same regard poetically. "It is much," he says, "to write 
sentences; it is more to add method and write out the spirit of 
your life symmetrically. But to arrange general reflections in their 
natural order, so that I shall have one homogeneous piece, a Lycidas, 
an Allegro, a Hamlet, a Midsummer Night's Dream, --this continuity 
is for the great. The wonderful men are wonderful hereby. Such 
concentration of experiences is in every good work, which, though 
successive in the mind of the master, were primarily combined in 
his piece. But what we want is consecutiveness . 'Tis with us a 
flash of light, then a long darkness, then a flash again. Ah 1 , could 
we turn these fugitive sparkles into an astronomy of Copernican 
worlds. "^ To the same effect he writes in his journal, again con- 
tour. X. 267. 2 Jour . X, 271-2. ^Natural History of Intellect : 
Powers and Laws of Thought . 

scious of his failure in larger units, and of his success, bril- 
liant but fragmentary, in the smaller; "I am a bard least of bards. 
I cannot, like them, make lofty arguments in stately, continuous 
verse, constraining the rocks, trees, animals, and the periodic 
stars to say my thoughts, for that is the gift of great poets; but 
I am a bard because I stand near them, and apprehend all they utter, 
and with pure joy hear that which I also would say, and, moreover, 
I speak interruptedly words and half stanzas which have the like 
scope and aim; What I cannot declare, yet cannot all withhold. •* 

Emerson found some comfort in partial achievement, and he 
gained more, as he did in the like situation in the field of prose, 
through the Each and All theory. The wish to see identity in 
variety results in making many of his poems, like many paragraphs in 
the essays, consist of an indefinite number of examples or symbols 
pointing at some ideal principle. Such poems, as Professor Firkins 
has pointed out, are often ineffective as well as structurally in- 
defensible. But the same theory whieh is responsible for them is 
also to be credited with the production of such poems as May -Day , 
and with the fact that literature has been enriched by many lines of 
Emerson^ authorship, whatever may be said of complete poems. "The 
poem," in Emerson's opinion, "is made up of lines each of which 
filled the sky of the poet in its turn,"* each of which, in other 
words, momentarily epitomized eternity for him. The great poet, 
Emerson believes, combines such lines and puts them under the sway 
of masterly method and a centralizing conception. The minor poet 

Jour. IX, 472. 2 J_our. X. 464. 

can but arrange them successively and hope, as Emerson hoped in 
regard to his prose, either that the infinitely extensible fragments 
will each in its turn represent infinity, or that a kind of unity 
will grow out of their uniform divinity of origin, May-Day stands 
as the result of a deliberate carrying out of the latter hope; it is 
the mere addition of a large number of springtime images, written 
from day to day in the journals. Many would wish these images de- 
voted to a lofty unifying purpose, but no one would deny their high 
poetic merit or wish them destroyed because they are not so utilized. 
And for their preservation in print, the Each and All theory deserves 
the credit. 

Professor Firkins defends Emerson's poetry on the ground 
that the most poetic thing about poetry is its particular images. 
"If a man utter a phrase like 'burly, dozing humble-bee,' does it 
really matter so much whether he c m repeat or sustain or enforce 
it in the succeeding lines or stanzas? And though Emerson him- 
self demanded structure as the necessary qualification of supreme 
verse, he tested poetry in this way. He tells us of a conversation 
with Tennyson regarding that always huge and now dusty epic, Festus . 
"When Festus was spoken of, I said that a poem must be made up of 
little poems, but that in Festus were no single good lines; you 
could not quote one good line, Tennyson quoted 

'There came a hand between the sun and us, 
And its five fingers made five nights in air.'"* 
Tennyson had picked out for him the most Tennysonian lines in Festus '. 

^alph Waldo Emerson , 295. 2 Jour. VII, 445, 


In poetry, as in prose, Emerson found value in the mere 
collection of meteoric particles, since the ability to create as- 
tronomic systems or even constellations was denied him. Better this, 
he thought, than to synthesize an artificial cosmogony through a 
mixture of star chips with base earth. 

One more influence of transcendental dualism on Emerson 1 s 
organization is worth mention, though this is evident only in 
practice and not definitely proclaimed in theory. Many of the 
essays derive their structure from a balancing of the material with 
the ideal. The essay on gate in Conduct of Life , for instance, after 
devoting most of its contents to painting out the varied strength 
of terrible necessity, suddenly contrasts its force with that of 
Intellect, which "annuls Pate." The chapter on Literature in 
English Traits , after praising English writers for their accurate 
embodiment of the apparent, alternately blames and praises English 
literature becuase of its modern deficiency in Platonists and its 
former glory. The essays in Representative Men are built on the 
same scheme. We marvel at Napoleon's possession of common sense 
and executive power, and then shudder at his immorality. Montaigne's 
scepticism and solidity are admirable, but scepticism can never take 
the place of faith. Shakspeare has commanding merits as a user of 
the symbol, but now much greater he would have been if he had only 
lived ideally' 

Dualism is Emerson's guide and comforter in matters of 
system, whether they be philosophical or literary. It gives him 
from time to time visionary glimpses of the Promised Land; and 
though he is never permitted to enter into it, he can group these 


momentary impressions in such a way as to enjoy some of its Dies- 
sings if only in vague and irregular anticipations. The length and 
breadth of Canaan he can never know; but he can climb Pisgah often 
enough to become familiar with the silver of its streams, the green 
of its distant valleys, and the misty blue of its mountain peaks. 



The transcendental! st worships the symbol. He believes 
that the writer's principal power is the effective use of figures 
of speech. So deep and far-reaching, indeed, is his devotion that 
there is hardly anything of good repute connected with or a part 
of writing that is not intimately associated with the symbol. Rea- 
son, the noble mental faculty, embodies its reflections emblematic- 
ally. Imagination is the power to symbolize. The man of genius is 
such because of his control of the symbol. Poetry presupposes the 

Before examining separately the reasons why the symbol is 
bone of bone and flesh of flesh with the reason, imagination, genius, 
and poetry, it is well to consider first the general ground on 
which the devotion is based. It is this; The material is the 
unique means by which the ideal may be expressed. Only the shadows 
of the ideal are available for the purposes of communicating it; 
only nature and human experience are provided as instruments by 
which the divine may be interpreted. "Man stands," according to 
Emerson, "on the point between spirit and matter, and the native 
of both elements; the true thinker sees that one represents the 
other, that the world is the mirror of the soul, and that it is his 
office to show this beautiful relation. And this is literature."*'' 

Memoir II, 716, 


Since the world as a whole is thus emblematic, its parts 
and human experience must have a similar relationship to the indi- 
vidual ideas which make up apiritual thought. And indeed, figures 
of sgeech are, by virtue of this relationship, themselves H a low 
idealism. Idealism regards the words as symbolic, and all these 
symbols of forms as fugitive and convertible expressions. The 
power of the poet is in controlling these symbols; in using every 
fact in Nature, however great and stable, as a fluent symbol, and 
in measuring his strength by the facility by which he makes the 
mood of mind give its color to things." 1 

The fact converted to symbolic purposes being the ideal 
expression, it is obvious that the name of an object used typically 
is a higher form of utterance than the same name used positively. 
For the former expresses the ideal, and the latter the material or 
actual. "The primary use of a fact is low; the secondary use, as 
it is a figure or illustration of my thought, is the real worth. 
First the fact; second its impression, or what I think of it. M ^ 
Words used in their ordinary sense may represent accurately worldly 
truth. Figures of speech do more: they help the writer to represent 
accurately spiritual truth. 

It is now easy to see why the symbol has a share in every- 
thing the transcendentalist holds dear; the reason, the imagination, 
genius, and poetry. It is plain that the reason, the ideal part 
of the mind, must be capable of seeing things emblematically. It is 
not surprising, either, that to the executive power of phrasing them 

^- Natural History o f Intellect ; Art and Criticism . ^ Letters , etc . ; 
Poetry and Imagination . 


emblematically there should be appied the term imagination. This 
Emerson defines as; "the nomination of the causal facts, the laws 
of the soul, by the physical facts. All physical facts are words 
for spiritual facts, and the Imagination, by naming them, is the 
Interpreter, showing the unity of the world. M ^ And, to proceed 
one step farther, he in whom this capacity for ideal vision and 
utterance is constantly and powerfully present, has genius, "The 
term 'genius,* when used with emphasis," says Emerson, "implies 
imagination; use of symbols, figurative speech. A deep insight 
will always, like Nature, ultimate its thought in a thing. 

The same basic conceptions apply to the relationship 
between the symbol and poetry. Poetry, in Emerson 1 s philosophy, is 
differentiated from prose by the fact that whereas prose may be 
the expression of the actual, poetry must be the expression of the 
ideal. And being ideal expression, it is, of course, symbolic. 
How poetry is distinguished from prose and consanguineous with the 
Reason, the symbol, and idealism in general is sufficiently indi- 
cated in these sentences from the Journals; "Poetry preceded prose, 
as the form of sustained thought, as Reason, whose vehicle poetry 
is, preceded the Understanding. When you assume the rhythm of 
verse and the analogy of nature, it is making proclamation, ! I am 
now freed from the trammels of the Apparent; I speak from the 
Mind.'" 3 

Thus the sacred character of the symbol, the material ex- 
pression of divine truth, causes it to pervade literature. Examin- 

1 £our. IX, 127. ^ Letters , etc .; Poetry and Imagination . 
3 Jpur. III. 497 , 

ation may now be made of the grounds for Emerson's belief that the 
inevitable expression of the metaphysical is the physical, and of 
the consequences of this belief. That the spiritual seeks symbolic 
utterance there are both human and divine indications, liot only 
does Nature serve man as a means of embodying abstract truth; it is 
also God's language. Philology gives testimony to the one; science 
to the other. Psychology next lends its aid in making clear the 
connection between Man, Spirit, and the Symbol; for it shows the 
desirability of a simple life in natural surroundings as a means of 
bringing up in the writer's mind apt and meaningful symbols. And 
since achievement of adequate expression depends upon such con- 
ditions, Emerson sees value in the symbol as a certifier of truth 
and an establisher of conviction. Most powerful, he believes, is 
the inspirational effect which the symbol has by virtue of the fact 
that it is itself inspired. 

For the belief that man goes to Nature when he wishes to 
express the abstract or the holy, Emerson finds philological war- 
rant. He points it out in Nature at the beginning of the chapter 
entitled Language . "Word3," he says, "are signs of natural facts." 
He here states what is familar even to novices in philology, that 
almost every word was at one time a figure of speech, and especially 
that "every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual 
fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some 
material appearance." The very word Spirit "primarily means wind." 
Thus language is inherently symbolic, "fossil poetry," as Emerson 
calls it. 1 

^- Essays II, T he Poet . 

But Emerson does not stop here. He goes farther than most 
philologists, however enthusiastic. He does not content himself 
with the statement that the human mind finds in Nature a correspon- 
dence with its own thoughts, and utilizes this for purposes of ex- 
pression. If this were the only aspect of the transcendental 
attitude toward Nature and its effect on style, the matter would be 
clear enough. It is complicated, however, by the fact that the 
transcendentalist regards Nature not only as man's language, but as 
God's. "There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself 
in material forms; and day and night, river and storm, beast and 
bird, acid and alkali, preexist in necessary Ideas in the mind of 
Cod, and are what they are by virtue of preceding affections in the 
world of spirit. A Pact is the end or last issue of spirit. The 
visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the in- 
visible world. "1 

That Nature is a mode of divine speece is exemplified, 
Emerson believes, in the correspondence between ethical and scien- 
tific laws. "The laws of moral nature answer to those of matter as 
face to face in a glass. .. The axioms of physics translate the 
laws of ethics. Thus; 'the whole is greater than its part;' 're- 
action is equal to action; ' M --axi cms which have in addition to 
their physical sense possibilities as expression, respectively, of 
Emerson's belief in the relation of the One to the Many, and the 
doctrine of Coinpensation. 

"In like manner, the memorable words of history and the 

• Nature . etc . ; Language . 

proverbs of nations consist usually of a natural fact, selected as a 
picture or parable of a moral truth, , , ' 'Tis hard to carry a full 
cup even.' . , 'Long-lived trees make roots first. 1 . . In their 
primary sense these are trivial facts, but we repeat them for the 
value of their analogical import."^" 

Thus it is that Science fails, in Emerson 1 s opinion, if it 
merely peeps and botanizes, merely accumulates data. Its aim should 
be the discovery of general physical laws, for through knowledge of 
these we gain insight into spiritual problems also. Investigation 
of the Many is only justified for its bearing on the One. In ideal- 
ism, Emerson thinks, resides the connection between literature and 
language on one side, and science on the other. Emerson himself 

points out that Goethe's universal insight made it possible for him 


to make contributions to science. Conversely, it is worthy of re- 
mark that Tyndall, the great scientist, known for "his strong, 
picturesque mode of seizing and expressing things", acknowledged 
his indebtedness to Emerson; and that W. D. Whitney, who more than 
any other philologist has emphasized that the origin of language 
was symbolic, was himself a scientist of no little reputation. 
If, therefore, it can be demonstrated that nature is 
simultaneously human and divine language, human expression is ade- 
quate only when the individual mind harmonizes with the Oversoul; 
when the Reason, rather than the Understanding, is operative. For 
this belief there is psychological basis. In the happy hours of 
communion with the unseen, there appears before the mind a symbol, 

^ Nature , etc.; Language . ^ Representative Men ; Goethe . 
^ Encyclopaedia Britannica , XXVTT. A99 . 


and usually a proper symbol, for every thought. All past experience 
is a fund, which, in these felicitous intervals, can be drawn upon.^" 

Emerson's first writing of this thought in his Journals is 
followed by some interesting examples drawn from his own experience. 
He had been setting down the account of a conversation in which he 
had said that a man's "Wilfulness may determine the character of 
moments, but his Will determines that of years," 

"While I thus talked, I saw some crude symbols of the 
thought with the mind's eye, --as it v/ere, a mass of grass or weeds 
in a stream, of which the spears or blades shot out from the mass in 
every directibn, but were immediately curved around to float in one 
direction. When presently the converstion chaiged to Thomas a 
Kempis's popularity, and how Aristotle and Plato came safely down, 
as if God brought them in his hand (though at no time are there more 
than five or six men who read them) , and of the Natural Academy by 
which the exact value of every book is determined, maugre all hin- 
drance or furtherance; then saw I, as I spoke, the old pail in the 
Summer Street kitchen with potatoes swimming in it, some at the top, 
some in the midst, and some lying at the bottom; and I spoiled my 
fine thought be saying that books take their place according to their 
specific gravity 'as surely as potatoes in a tub' ."^ 

Exaltation of thought finds vent no only in suitable sym- 
bols, but also in fitting illustration. "The way in which Burke or 
Sheridan or Yfebster surprises us," Emerson says in his essay on 
Memory . "is by his always having a sharp tool that fits the present 

Mature , etc.; Language . 2 Jour . III. 527-8. ^Natural History of 


use. The more he is heated, the wider he sees; he seems to 

remember all he ever knew." Emerson's style is similarly vivified. 
Like many profound thinkers and writers- -Montaigne and Burton not- 
ably--he is wealthy in illustration; he heaps up instances of his 
point. "Rammed with life," the phrase which he borrows from Ben 
Jonson to describe Plutarch's "rapid and crowded style", 1 could well 
be applied to his own writing. 

To the state of mind which makes apposite symbol and 
illustration possible, two elements contribute: a life in natural 
surroundings , and the desire to express truth which follows upon 
simplicity of life and character. 

By getting close to Nature, we approach divinity, since 
Nature is an externization of spirit. And, because our expression 
depends on our experience, the country is most likely to cause 
those mental impressions which in later years will have their 
effect in the purest of language, symbols, that is, which depend 
directly on Nature. Emerson emphasizes "the advantage which the 
country life possesses, for a powerful mind, over the artificial and 
curtailed life of cities," and declares that the natural images, 
insensibly received into the mind, will, "at the call of a noble 
sentiment," "reappear in their morning lustre, as fit symbols and 
words of the thoughts which the passing events shall awaken."^ 

Emerson himself spent most of the early part of his life 
in Boston, and came to the ruralities of Concord in his early 
thirties--a most impressionable and often decisive age so far as 

^ Lectures . etc .: Plutarch . ^Nature , etc . ; Language . 

style is concerned. In discussing the sources of his devotion to 
the symbol, I shall try to show how this change of surroundings co- 
operates with other influences. Here it is sufficient to point out 
its direct effect on his own style. He came to Nature late, as one 
who never having been in love falls into it suddenly at the age of 
thirty-five. In a letter at this time, he wrote; "A sunset, a 
forest, a snow-storm, a certain river-view are more to me than many 
friends, and do ordinarily divide my day with my books." 1 Stilted- 
ness and formality--result of his ministerial office and his youth- 
ful admiration for the flowers of eloquence--gave way to a poetic 
warmth great enough to justify the name of "rhapsody" often applied 
to his first book, nature . And in regard to his next book he writes 
in his Journals: "All my thoughts are foresters. I have scarce a 
daydream on which the breath of the pines has not blown, and their 
shadows waved. Shall I not then call my little book Forest Essays?"' 

"The poet," Emerson writes , "should walk in the fields, 
drawn by new scenes, supplied with vivid pictures and thoughts until 
insensibly the recollection of his home was crowded out of his mind, 
and all memory obliterated, and he was led in triumph by Nature. 

"When he spoke of the stars he should be innocent of what 
he said; for it seemed that the stars, as they rolled over him, 
mirrored themselves in his mind as in a deep well, and it was their 
image and not his thought that you saw."** 

This intimate kinship between style and Nature engendered 
by country life is impossible for the man whose character has been 

Memoir I. 236-7. 2 Jour . V, 514. 3 Jour . VI, 453. 


warped from native simplicity. The writer removed from direct con- 
tact with Nature by artificial and complex social conditions must 
express himself falsely and weakly, for the truest language, the 
figurative, is for him borrowed finery, superposed ornamentation, 
rather than symbols that tell the truth by being an integral part 
of the fact which they describe. "Hundreds of writers," Emerson 
declares, "may be found in every long-civilised nation, who for a 
short time believe, and make others believe, that they see and utter 
truths, who do not of themselves clothe one thought in its natural 
garment, but who feed unconsciously on the language created by the 
primary writers of the country, those, namely, who hold primarily 
on nature,"! 

Herein, for instance, lies the weakness of the literature 
of the neoclassical eighteenth century. "Pope and Johnson and Ad- 
dison," Emerson asserts, "write as if they had never seen the face 
of the country, but had only read of trees and rivers in books. "^ 
And again: "Pope and his school wrote poetry fit to put around 
frosted cake."^ In this respect at least he believes Webster is 
superior to Burke, for "Burke's imagery is, much of it, got from 
books, and so is a secondary formation. Webster's is all orimary."^ 
And the remedy, once more, is this; "Let a man make the woods and 
fields his books; then at the hour of passion his thoughts will 
invest themselves spontaneously with natural imagery ."^ 

The worth of immediate reference to Nature is taken 
advantage of, also, by the orator whose spneech gains in pertinency 

^ Nature , etc .: Language . 2 Jour . IV, 259, 3 English Traits : 
Literature . 4 Jour . Ill 567 . 5 Ibid. 


and in truth through connection with out-of-door realities. "Web- 
ster," Emerson notes, "never loses sight of his relation to Nature. 
The Day is always a part of him. 'But, Mr. President, the shades 

of evening which close around us, admonish us to conclude,* he said 

\ > 
at Cambridge."' 1 ' 

The psychological connection between Truth, Nature, and 
expression is shown in the fact, Emerson believes, "that the advocate 
of the good cause finds a wealth of arguments and illustrations on 
his way. He stands for Truth, and Truth and Nature help him un- 
expectedly and irresistibly at every step. All the felicities of 
example, of imagery, of admirable poetry, old religion, new thought, 
the analogies of science, throng to him and strengthen his position. 
Nay, viien we had to praise John Brown of Ossawatomie, I remember 
what a multitude of fine verses of old poetry fitted him exactly, 
and appeared to have been prophetically written for the occasion."^ 

Nature, then, is the source through which the writer de- 
rives the ability to express himself figuratively in nearest ac- 
cordance with the divine language, For philology, philosophy, natural 
science, and psychology unite to furnish indications that Nature 
serves both God and man as means of communication. It is clear, too, 
that the highest type of ideal expression, adequate symbols, is avail- 
able to the writer who recognizes Nature as divine utterance, and 
comes close to its message by a life as near as possible to it, and 
of conforming simplicity. 

If Nature is the source, and the source itself has intimate 

Jour . IV, 179. ^Jour. X, 108, 

kinship wi th the divine, it is obviously conversely true that the 
writer's symbols furnish a test by which both he and his audience 
may determine the validity of his utterances, and the quality of 
mind from which they issue. 

"A happy symbol is a sort of evidence that your thought is 
just. I had rather have a good symbol of my thought, or a good 
analogy, than the suffrage of Kant or Plato. If you agree with me, 
or Locke or Montesquieu agree, I may yet be wrong; but if the elm- 
tree thinks the same thing, if running water, or burning coal, if 
crystals, if alkalies, in their several fashions say what I say, it 
must be true."^" 

In the symbol Emerson found a means of judging depth of 
mentality. "An index or mercury of intellectual proficiency," he 
says, "is the perception of identity. "^ "In meeting a new student," 
he writes in his Journals, "I incline to ask him, Do you know any 
deep man? Has any one furnished you wi th a new image? For to see 
the world representatively, implies high gifts."*' One symbol, indeed 
may be the clue to genius, "'lis a good mark of genius, a single 
novel expression of identity. Thus Lord Brooke's 

'So wordes should sparkes be of those fires they 
strike . ' 

Or Donne' s 

'That one would almost say her body thought.' "4 
Since figures of speech immediately dependent on Nature 
convince the hearer or reader of their high origin and thus of their 

^• Letters , etc .; ?o etry and Imagination . ^ Essays ^. intellect . 
3 Jour. VITT. ^7. 4 Jour. VIII. 46. 


truth, the symbol is of great value persuasively. Even on a low 
plane, the directness of its relationship to Nature accounts for a 
def ini teness , a concreteness of feeling on the part of the audience; 
they are sure of the author's fidelity to the fact. And when the 
symbol is of higher origin, is truly spiritual, the loftiness of 
the region from which it wings its flight assures the audience of 
the reality of the inspiration, and at the same time their spirits 
also are lifted to the exhilarating ether. With such elevation 
comes absolute confidence, 

"The orator must be, to a certain extent, a poet. We are 
such imaginative creatures that nothing so works on the human mind, 
barbarous or civil, as a trope. Condense some daily experience into 
a glowing symbol, and an audience is electrified. They feel as if 
they already possessed some right and power over a fact which they 
can detach and completely master in thought. It is a wonderful aid 
to the memory which carries away the image and never loses it. A 
popular assembly, like the House of Commons, or the French Chamber, 
or the American Congress, is commanded by these two powers, --first 
by a fact, then by skill of statement. Put the argument into a 
concrete shape, into a image--some hard phrase, round and solid as a 
ball, which they can see and handle and carry home with them, --and 
the cause is half won.?^ 

With the same effect as symbols are illustrations, spe- 
cific instances. Again the fusion of the material with the mental 
produces conviction. "I cannot hear a sermon," declares Emerson, 

Society and Solitude ; Eloquence . 


"without being struck by the fact that amid drowsy series of senten- 
ces, what sensation a historical fact, a biographical name, a sharply 
objective illustration makes. Why will not the preacher heed the 
momentary silence of his congregation, and (often what is shown him) 
that this particular sentence is all they carry away? Is he not 
taught hereby that synthesis is to all grateful, and to most indis- 
pensable, of abstract thought and concrete body? Principles should 
be verified by the adducing of facts, and sentiments incorporated 
by their appropriate imagery."^ 

More far-reaching is the effect of the symbol which em- 
bodies high spiritual truths. It is durable and pervasive. It 
dominates literature and makes it popular. It determines national 
destines. And because of its ideal nature it breaks the boundaries 
of sense and opens the everlasting gates of spirit, 

"A good symbol is the best argument, and is a missionary 
to persuade thousands. A figurative statement arrests attention, 
and is remembered and repeated. How often has a phrase of this kind 
made a reputation. Pythagoras' s Golden Sayings were such, and 
Socrates' s, and Mirabeau's, and Burke's, and Bonaparte's. There 
is no more welcome gift to men that a new symbol. That satiates, 
transports, converts them. They assimilate themselves to it, deal 
with it in all ways, and it will last a hundred years. Then comes a 
new genius, and brings another. "2 

To this pure pleasure which the symbol affords, all men 
are subject. "All nren are so far poets. When people tell me they 

do not relish poetry, and bring me Shelley, or Aikin'3 Poets, or I 
know not what volumes of rhymed English, to show that it has no 
charm, I am quite of their mind. But this dislike of the books only 
proves their liking of poetry. For they relish Aesop ,-- cannot for- . 
get him or not use him; bring them Homer's Iliad, and they like that; 
or the Cid, and that rings well; read to them from Chaucer, and 
they reclon him an honest fellow. Lear and Macbeth and Richard III, 
they know pretty well without guide. Give them Robin Hood's ballads 
or Griselda, or Sir Andrew Barton, or Sir Patrick Spens , or Chevy 
Chase, or Tarn ' Shanter, and they like these well enough. .. They 
like poetry without knowing it as such. They like to go to the 
theatre and be made to weep; to Faneuil Hall, and be taught by Otis, 
Webster, or Kossuth, or Phillips, what great hearts they have, what 
tears, what new possible enlargements to their narrow horizons."^* 

Thus the democratic literature is the symbolic. And there 
are other symbols, more peculiarly of the people, by the people, and 
for the people, which are emblematic of party belief, and even of. 
patriotism. "In our political parties," says Emerson, "compute the 
power of badges and emblems. See the great ball which they roll 
from Baltimore to Bunker hill'. In the political processions Lowell 
goes in a loom, and Lynn in a shoe, and Salem in a ship. Witness 
the cider-barrel, the log-cabin, the hickory- stick, the palmetto, and 
all the cognizances of party. See the power of national emblems. 
Some stars, lilies, leopards, a crescent, a lion, an eagle, or other 
figure, vfcich came into credit God knows how, on an old rag of bunt- 

^ Letters , etc . ; Po etry and Imagination . 


ing, blowing in the wind, on a fort, at the ends of the earth, shall 
make the blood tingle under the rudest, or the most conventional 
exterior. The people fancy they hate poetry, and they are all poets 
and mystics'. wl 

Accompanying and reinforcing the persuasive influence of 
the symbol is its lifting power. By providing a means of escape from 
the world of shows to the world of realities it awakens joy and 
gratitude, "Mark the delight of an audience in an image. When some 
familiar truth or a fact appears in a new dress, mounted as on a 
fine horse, equipped with a grand pair of ballooning wings, we can- 
not enough testify our surprise and pleasure."* "The metamorphosis 
excites in the beholder an emotion of joy. The use of symbols has 
a certain power of emancipation and exhilaration for all men. .. 
We are like persons who come out of a cave or cellar into the open 
air, ., Poets are thus liberating gods. Men have really got a 
new sense, and found within their world another world, or nest of 
worlds; for the metamorphosis once seen, we divine that it does not 
stop ," 3 

Per this translation to the heights which the symboliser 
makes possible, his reward is the greatest; his work is permanent. 
"This emancipation is dear to all men, and the power to impart it, 
as it must come from greater depth and scope of thought, is a 
measure of intellect. Therefore all books of the imagination en- 
dure, all which ascend to that truth that the writer sees nature be- 
low him, and uses it as his exponent. Every verse or sentence pos- 

^ Essays II ; The Poet . ^ Lett er s, etc..: Poetry and Imagination . 

3 Essays II; The Poet. 

f " 6 

sessing this virtue will take care of its own immortality 

For Emerson, the dependence of literature on the symbol 
is complete. Nature, the inevitable material means of expressing 
the ideal, is not only iaan' s language, but God's, By a life close 
to Nature, and in harmony with it, the writer stores his mind with 
images, which, at the hour appointed, fitly clothe his thought. 
The symbol thus derived is held, by virtue of its divine source, 
in the highest regard; the writer's symbolically expressed ideas 
are received with the glad trust and exaltation of mood which wel- 
come the literature of genius. The light of God's countenance has 
shone on the face of the material, and has transfigured it. 

Assays II: 

The Poet . 



The symbol, the noble because the ideal form of express- 
ion, Emerson has muoh to say about independently. In the preoeding 
section it has been olear enough that he often considers it apart 
from the material fact whose name it employs, and takes no account 
of the fact that this same name is U3ed, on the material plane, with 
out ulterior meaning. Yet to disregard, even to fail to lay con- 
siderable stress on the relationship between the fact and the symbol 
would be to neglect the very fundamentals of Emerson's theory of 
style. For the complex but intimate connection between them has two 
important effects. First, it is woven through and through Emerson's 
demand that expression should be the exact and final representation 
of the thing it is trying to describe. Second, in combination with 
the doctrine of the One and the Many, the relationship between fact 
and symbol makes possible for Emerson the belief that language may 
be simple, idiomatic and reticent, at the same time that it is 
symbolic and even intense. Discussion of these two effects comes 
properly under the headings of Adequacy and Each and All . 

1 — Adequacy 

The transcendentalist does not spurn the impressions of 
sense. He regards the emanations of the Reason as sublime in their 
effect and origin; but however heavenly are the regions he is capable 
of inhabiting, he is from time to time conscious of his feet firmly 
planted on the earth. Hence his style and his theories about style 
are a compound. At times he grips the fact; at others he cherishes 
the symbol; most frequently he takes middle ground, and in the midst 
of his worship of the symbol does not forget the fact behind it. 

There are occasions when he follows what Emerson calls 

"the rule of positive and superlative." "As long as you deal with 

sensible objects in the sphere of sense, call things by their right 

names. But every man may be, and some men are, raised to a platform 

whence he sees beyond sense to moral and spiritual truth; when he no 

longer sees snow as snow, or horses as horses, but only sees and 

names them representatively for those interior facts which they 

signify. This is the way the poets use them. And in that exalted 

state, the mind deals very easily with great and small material 


things, and strings worlds like beads upon its thought." 

Gommonsense regards a spade as a spade; idealism may con- 
sider it emblematic, let us say, of Garlyle's philosophy of work. 
Actually, pigs is pigs; transcendent ally, they may represent mater- 

But usually the expression of the ideal is not so sharply 
differentiated from the expression of the material. The trans- 
cendental writer remembers that he does not always breathe thin air. 

Though he has a share of the divine spirit, he is also human; the 

Jour. VIII, 520. 

elements are mixed in him. The same is true of his readers. His 

style, then, must "be correspondingly blended of the everyday and the 

eternal. This "being the case, he finds comfort and aid in the fact 

that he may often express himself materially and ideally at the same 

time; since the material, the only means by which the ideal may be 

expressed, therefore always suggests the ideal. His style maybe 

"the imaginative-practical." Since "Imagination is suspected, the 

mechanical is despised," he may "write the solid and the ethereal, 


for the divine." "The poet, like the electric rod, must reach from 
a point nearer the sky than all surrounding objects, down to the 
earth, and into the dark wet soil, or neither is of use. The poet 
must not only converse with pure thought, but he must demonstrate it 
almost to the senses. His words must be pictures, his verses must 
be spheres and cubes, to be seen and smelled and handled. His fable 
must be a good story, and its meaning must hold as pure truth. In 
the debates on the Copyright Bill, in the English Parliament, Mr. 
Sergeant Wakley, the coroner, quoted Wordsworth's poetry in derision, 
and asked the roaring House of Commons what that meant, and whether 
a man should have public reward for writing such stuff. Homer, 
Horace, Milton and Chaucer would defy the coroner. Whilst they have 
wisdom to the wise, he would see that to the external they have ex- 
ternal meaning. Coleridge excellently said of poetry, that poetry 

must first be good sense; as a palace might well be magnificent, but 


first it must be a house." 

But this is not all. Hot only should these two testes of 

fitness be satisfied, but working with them is a requirement of 
- - 

Jour . VII, 31. Natural History of Intellect : Papers 
from the Dial , Europe and Europenn Books . 

stylistic accuracy, in general and applied to the single word or 
phrase. Emerson is as rigid in his demand for the right word as 
Flaubert. He is extreme enough to say: "Ho man can write well who 
thinks there is any choice of words for him. The laws of composi- 
tion are as strict as those of sculpture and architecture. There 
is always one line that ought to be drawn, or one proportion that 
should be kept, and every other line or proportion is wrong, and so 

far wrong as it deviates from this. So in writing, there is always 


a right word, and every other than that is wrong." 

Without stringent, painstaking revision, the right word 
is in many cases impossible of attainment. Emerson polished his 
writings religiously. Concerning revision he writes: "The address 
to the Divinity School is published, and they are printing the Dart- 
mouth Oration. The correction of these two pieces for the press 
has cost me no little labor. .. But negligence in the author is 

inexcusable. I know and will know no such thing as haste in com- 

position." And in another passage: "If that ancient king, in the 

school-books, who offered a reward to the author of a new pleasure 

could make his proclamation anew, I should put in for a first prize. 

I would tell him to write an oration, and then print it, and setting 

himself diligently to the correction, let him strike out a blunder 

and insert the right word just ere the press falls, and he shall 


know a new pleasure." 

The right word is secured through an exact adjustment be- 
twBon words and the things they express. This requirement raises 
perplexing difficulties to beset the writer. In the first place, 

1 2 3 

Jour. II, 401-2. Jour. V, 21. Jour. V, 12. 

I -66- 

the problem of expression is always complicated by the fact that some 
things are actual, and some are spiritual; the writer must be accurate 
on either level, or even, as we have seen, on both simultaneously. 
In the second place, expression maybe considered as representing 
J either the processes of the writer's mind, or the facts and the ex- 
perience which furnish the material for these processes. V/riting 
may be a picture of the writer's mind; or it may be a picture of 
Hature. In either case, of course, duality has its influence in de- 
termining what is accurate. For the writer's mind is made up of 
Understanding and Reason; and facts and experience may be utilized 
for expressing either the impressions of sense, or spiritual truth, 
or once more, both. In the third place, as is perhaps sufficiently 
suggested by the foregoing, the limitations of language must be con- 
sidered. Emerson speaks at times of making the word fit the thing, 
but at other times, more ambitiously, he speaks of making words one 
with things. Identity of word and object is only momentarily possi- 
ble, however, for the object, as a part of Nature, expresses divine 
truth, ^.nd only in moments of communion with the Oversoul, moments 
of ecstasy, is it possible for the human individual to speak divine- 
ly. Hence ordinarily words aim to describe, rather than are the 
thing. This aim is strigent enough in its demands, and the occasions 
are frequent and perhaps usual when words do not succeed even in des- 
cribing, but are content merely to suggest. 

a. Accuracy 

Detailed consideration of these notions will serve to 
olarify, though it may not succeed in showing entire consistency. 
At the outset it should be plain that whatever the difficulties and 

whatever the complications , Emerson admires accurate expression 


wherever he finds it: he calls it "the most precious beauty." He 
extols Shakspeare in this regard: "One would say Shaxspeare must 
have been a thousand years old when he wrote his first piece; so 
' thoroughly is his thought familiar to him, so solidly worded, as if 
it were already a proverb, and not hereafter to become one. Shaks- 
peare is nothing but a large utterance .. a wonderful symbolizer 
and expressor, who ha3 no rival in all ages." Milton's versatile 
[precision he praises almost as highly: "Milton's mind seems to have 
; no thought or emotion which refused to be recorded. His mastery of 
his native tongue was more than to use it as well as any other; he 
cast it .into new forms. He uttered in it things unheard before. 
Not imitating but rivalling Shakspeare, he scattered, in tones of 
prolonged and delicate melody, his pastoral and romantic fancies; 
then, soaring into unattempted strains, he made it capable of an un- 
known majesty, and bent it to express every trait of beauty, every 

shade of thought; and sear3hed the Kennel and jakes as well as the 


palaces of sound for the harsh discords of his polemic wrath." 

Emerson, it is true, sometimes feels the element of 
illusion in expression and acknowledges that it can never really 
take the place of the spiritual life which language at its best 
3trives to represent. "I," he says, "who have all my life heard any 
number of orations and debates, read poems and miscellaneous books, 
conversed with many geniuses, am still the victim of any new page; 
and if Marmaduke , or Hugh, or Moosehead, or any other, invent a new 
style or mythology, I fancy that the world will be all brave and 
right if dressed in these colors, which I had not thought of. Then 

I 2 

Jour . X, 229. natural ilist ory of Intellect : ^rt and 

Crit icism. Uatur^l History of Intellect : Milton 

at once I will daub with this new paint; but it will not stick. 

'Tis like the oement which the peddler sells at the door; he ma^es 

broken crockery hold with it, but you can never buy of him a bit of 


the cement which will make it hold when he is gone." And with this 

unsatisfying aspect of literature in mind he may write ironically: 

"Warning, yes, that is the office of the newspapers of the world , 

those famous editors from Lioses, Homer, Confucius, and so on, flown 

to Goethe and Kant : they name what the people have already done, and 

the thankful people say, 'Doctor, 'tis a great comfort to know the 


disease whereof I die.'" But the superiority of the fact used as 
symbolic language to the fact considered as the object of sensation 
i3 so great that he can also write: "I don't know but I value the 
name of a thing, that is, the poet's true name for it, more than the 
thing. If I can get the right word for the moon, or about it, — the 
word that suggests to me and all men its human and universal beauty 
and significance , --then I have what I want of it, and shall not de- 
sire that a road be made from my garden to the moon, or that a gift 


of this elephant 3hould be made over to me." 

This cherishing of the ideal expression does not, in Emer- 
son's case, preclude a fondness for satisfactory expression of the 
actual. Sometimes he craves relief from the fugitive impalpabilities 
of idealism. In any case he is man of this world and artist enough 
to delight in the solid footing which he finds in Montaigne; in sev- 
eral English authors; and in the American orators, Y/ebster and 

1 2 3 

Conduct of Life : Illusions . Jour. VI, 330. Jour . X, 


''Phillips. And indeed, the hard certainty and concreteness which i3 
i the effect of accurate recording of physical facts is a quality 

which Emerson believes the expression of the ideal, the symbol, may 

well strive for. 

Emerson writes thus of the effect of too much reading in 

the Platonists: "We have too much fine reading .. and as those who 

have too much cake and candy long for a brown crust, so we like the 


Albany Cultivator . " And again he confesses mild revolt when he de- 
clares: "Men are weathercocks and like nothing long. We are dis- 
; gusted with history because it is precise, external, and indigent. 
But take up Behmen, or Swedenborg, or Garlyle even, or any other who 
will write history mystically, and we wish straightway for French 


science and facts recorded agreeably to the common sense of mankind." 

Herein lies part of the reason for his sympathy with Mon- 
taigne. The essay devoted to him in Representative Men includes sev- 
eral paragraphs written in sympathetic comprehension of Montaigne's 
desire not to "overstate the dry fact;" to assure his reader that 
"whatever you get here shall smack of the earth and of real life, 
sweet, or smart, or stinging." 

Emerson finds English literature deficient in idealism; 

but at the same time he is appreciative of its success in realistic 

expression. Swift "describes his fictitious persons as if for the 

police. Defoe has no insecurity or choice. Hudibras has the same 

hard mentality, — keeping the truth at once to the senses and to the 

intellect. .. Chaucer's hard painting of his Canterbury pilgrims 


satisfies the senses." 

Exactness in expression of the fact is an indispensable 

I 2 3 

Jour . VI, 244. Jour . VII, 19-20. English Traits : 


part of eloquence. "Eloquence must "be grounded on the plainest 

narrative. Afterwards, it may warm itself until it exhales symbols 

of every kind and color, speaks only through the most poetic forms; 

but first and last it must still he at bottom a biblical statement 

of fact." Emerson praises Wendell Phillips because "the capital 

lesson" of eloquence may be learned from him that "the first and the 

second and the third part of the art is, to keep your feet always 


firm on a fact." Webster is similarly commendable. Emerson speaks 


of his "daylight statement;" and tells us that in the Bunker Hill 


Address, he "hugged his fact •• close." 

Superior as an expressor of the fact to any of the authors 

or speakers mentioned is, in Emerson's opinion, Garlyle — "a better 

painter in the Dutch style than we have had in literature before. 

It is terrible — his closeness and fidelity: he copies that which 

never was seen before. It is like seeing your figure in a glass. 

It is an improvement in writing as strange as Daguerre's in picture, 


and rightly fell in the same age with that." Emerson uses many 
phrases to suggest the variety and at the same time the precision of 
Garlyle 's style: "I see," he writes in regard to Frederick the Great, 
"the eyes of the writer looking into my eyes; all the way, chuck- 
ling with undertones and puns and winks and shrugs and long com- 
manding glances, and stereoscoping every figure that passes, and 

every hill, river, wood, hummock, and pebble in the long perspect- 

ive." To the same effect he writes elsewhere that in Garlyle' s 
book "You have no board interposed between you and the writer's 

Society and Solitude : Eloquence , jour. VI, 542-3. Mis 

oellanie s : The Fugitive Slave Law — Address at Concord . 4 Miscel - 
lanies : She Fugitive Slave Law - - Lecture at Hew York . 5 Jour . VIII, 
251. " Jour . IX, 195-6. 

mind. He talks flexibly, now high, now low, in loud emphasis, in 

undertones, then laughs till the walls ring, then oalmly moderates, 

then hint3, or raises an eyebrow. He has gone nigher the wind than 


any other oraft." 

What of Emerson's own suooess as a Dutoh painter? Though 
the greater part of his writing is idealistic, he does not meet with 
failure when it is his duty to describe the material. His histori- 
cal addresses serve their purpose satisfactorily. English Traits 
shows keenness of sight, as well as of insight. He characterizes 

with precision the mingled earthliness and spirituality of his uncle, 


the Rev. Ezra Ripley, D.D. He interprets racily and understandingly 


such middle-of-the-road seeker3 after truth as Socrates and Mon- 

taigne. The lineaments of the Devil, even, seem recognizable in his 


portrait of i.Iephistopheles. And in the essay on Fate in Conduct of 
Life he clinches grimly with G-rendel and comes away victorious. 

Often Emerson uses such collections of fact-words as mark 
the just-quoted passages descriptive of Carlyle's style: "undertones 
and puns and winks and shrugs." He may employ them either to create 
the effect of exactness in representing the actual; or, contrari- 
wise, to show the illusoriness of the impressions of sense. He takes 
his stand on terra firma and writes: "The stuff of all countries is 
the same. Do you suppose there is any country where they do not 

scald milk-pans, and swaddle the infants, and burn the brushwood, 


and broil the fish?" He takes firm hold, too, in his sentence: 

1 2 

Natural History of Intellect : rt and Or it ioism. Lect - 

3 4 5 

ures . etc. Representative Men : Plato . Representative en. Repre - 


sentative I*Ien: Goethe. Conduct of Life: Culture. 

"England is aghast at the disclosure of her fraud in the adultera- 
tion of food, of drugs, and of almost every fabric in her mills and 

shops; finding that milk will not nourish, nor sugar sweeten, nor 


"bread satisfy, nor pepper "bite the tongue, nor glue stick." Some- 
times, however, Emerson uses such concrete series to suggest that 
after all the facts are transitory and unsubstantial. As when he 
says that man's "operations taken together are so insignificant, a 
little chipping, baking, patching, and washing, that in an impression 

so grand as that of the world on the human mind, they do not vary 

the result." 

Emerson admires and practises the expression of actual 
facts. But the truer expression, the more exact, is the symbolic-- 
the ideal. "Trueness of sight" is displayed, he says, "in using 
such words as show that the man was an eye-witness, and not a re- 
peater of what was told. Thus, the girl who said 'the earth was a- 

gee;' Lord Bacon when he speaks of exploding gunpowder as 'a fiery 


wind blowing with that expansive force.'" 

The writer should not, however, be satisfied because 
through the symbol he attains a nobler adequacy of utterance. The 
impression of stability which is produced by fidelity to the fact 
on the material plane can be reproduced in the realm of the ideal 
with even greater surety of effect. "There are two powers of the 
imagination," according to Emerson. One is the power to symbolize; 
"and the other •• is the tenaciousness of an image, cleaving 

1 2 

English Traits : wealth . Nature, etc.: Introducti on. 


Jour . Ill, 475-6. 

unto it and not letting it go, and, "by the treatment, demonstrating 

that this figment of thought is as palpable and objective to the poet 

as is the ground on which he stands, or the walls of houses about 

him." Or, in other words, "The problem of the poet is to unite 

freedom with precision; to give the pleasure of color, and be not 


less the most powerful of sculptors." 

Here resides the strength of Dante and of Shakspeare . 

"Dante was free imagination, — all wing3, — yet he wrote like Euclid." 

"Dante's imagination," Emerson says, "is the nearest to hands and 

feet that we have seen. He clasps the thought as if it were a tree 

or a stone, and describes as mathematically. I once found Page the 

painter modelling his figures in clay, Euth and Naomi , before he 

painted them on canvas. Dante, one would say, did the same thing 


before he wrote his verses." Following the same principle, Shaks- 
peare, the ideal dramatist, makes his characters and their speeches 
as lifelike, as realistic, as if they were possible human beings. 
This is true even of Ariel, Caliban, and the fairies in the Mid- 
summer Hight's Dream. The "force of representation so plants his 
figures before him that he treats them as real; talks to them as if 
they were bodily there; puts words into their mouths such as they 
would have spoken, and is affected by them as by persons. .. The 
humor of Falstaff, the terror of Macbeth, have each their swarm of 

fit thoughts and images, as if Shakspeare had known and reported 


the men, instead of inventing them at his desk." 

1 2 
Jour . VII, 160. Letters , etc.: Poetry and Imagination . 
'3 4 5 

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. 

The satisfaction to be derived from such objectifying of 
the imaginative is of the same general character as that which at- 
tends everywhere the achievement of adequate expression. The 3ame 
requirements of precision have to be met in even greater measure 
perhaps in the writing which has as its intention definition, whether 
of the earthly or spiritual. Emerson finds definition truly suc- 
cessful only when it makes evident the relationship between the 
particular fact or facts under consideration and the general law 
which affects them; when it shows the intellectual or spiritual in 
the physical; the One in the Many. The lawyer or judge is most to 
be commended who disregards technical points and draws the true dis- 
tinctions which "come from and go to the sound human understanding;" 
which have the "merit of common sense .. the same quality we admire 

in Aristotle, Montaigne, Cervantes, or in Samuel Johnson, or Frank- 

lin." On the higher levels, definition is philosophy. In this re- 
gard, Plato surpasses all previous philosophers. He, by recognizing 
the cardinal principles of Unity and Variety, has a complete insight 

which brings order out of the previous crudities of conception re- 


garding nature and morals. In the same way, Coleridge is superior 

to Landor. Landor, Emerson says, "is a man full of thoughts, but 

not, like Coleridge, a man of ideas. Only from a mind conversant 

with the First Philosophy can definitions be expected. Coleridge has 

contributed many valuable ones to modern literature. Mr. Landor f s 

definitions are only enumerations of particulars; the generic law is 

not seized." 

Emerson's own success in definition is considerable. 

I 2 
Society and Solitud e : Eloquence . Representative Men : 


Plato . natural History of Intellect : Walter Savage Land or . 

Partly as the result of his ability to look at things either from 

the Yankee or the Platonic angle, his exposition of philosophical 

ideas, especially those of opposing points of view, is admirable in 

its fair-mindedness and its lucidity. On some occasions, it is true, 

he admits his own inadequacy to find words to express his concep- 

1 2 
tions: as in the essay on the Oversoul or in that on Civilizat ion . 

But in the field of human relationships, what could be more discern- 


ing than his lecture on The Cons ervative , with its evenly sustained 

debate between the standpatter and the progressive? And with similar 

success in metaphysical regions is his lecture on The I ran s c enden t al - 

ist . 

Thus in theory and practice Emerson displays his belief 


that "Skill in writing consists in making every word cover a thing." 
It makes no difference whether the thing be seen with the eye of 
sense, or the eye of vision, whether the writing be prose or poetry, 
whether it be essay, speech, drama, or philosophy, precision is es- 
sential. There is, it is true, a difference in the kind of accuracy 
demanded: each thing being accurate after its kind, according to 
whether it is material or ideal. The actual must be so closely des- 
cribed as to accord with the impressions of sense. And the ideal 
must not only be represented in fit symbols, but has to satisfy the 
additional requirement that it be as concrete an embodiment as if 
it were on object of the senses. 

Ss3ays I. ^ Society and Solitude . Nature , etc. 

•4 5 
Nature, etc. Jour . IV, 326. 

b. The V;ord and the Thing 

The next main problem raised by the Emersonian demand 

for adequacy in expression is this: If every word should cover a 

thing, what is the thing? Is it the mental process, or is it the 

natural and physical fact which gives body to the thought? Is it 

the thought or the object of thought? Does expression represent the 

writer's intellectual operations or the experience and observation 

of Ilature which furnish the material for these operations? Emerson 

is not always careful to distinguish; and sometimes he means one, 

sometimes the other. He says that Shakspeare "could say the thing 


finer, nearer to the purity of thought itself than any other;" and, 

on the other hand, writes: "Language clothes Nature, a3 the air 

olothes the earth, taking the exact form and pressure of every ob- 

jeot." The first conception, that of mental reproduction, is most 
frequent when Emerson is thinking of the individual mind as a part 
of the Universal Llind or Over soul. The second conception, equating 
style with Nature, appears usually when Emerson has in mind the doc- 
trine that Nature is the symbolic expression of spirit. That the 
two conceptions may easily run into one another is hereby evidont. 
For there is no great difficulty in thinking of Nature, the means 
by which the Divine Spirit or Oversoul finds expression, as having 
the same meaning as the Oversoul; as being, at least for the purposes 
of expression, identical with it. 

Not only do the two conceptions converge in this way, but 
whatever discrepancy there may be between them is apparently resolv- 
able. Emerson's explanation involves a discussion of a psychologi- 

I 2 
Jour . X, 29. Jour . IV, 146. 

cal process which is inclusive of one we have already discussed in 
detail, in the section on the Symbol. This is the process by which 
the writer may be able to have at his command the proper kind of 
symbols. The writer's success in the expression of the ideal, we 
saw, comes about through his having the kind of experience that will 
make, at the proper hour, adequate symbols arise in his mind to cover 
the thought; and this experience, we discovered, is life in natural 
surroundings and of congruous simplicity. Similarly, at the beginn- 
ing of his essay on Goethe in Representative Men, Emerson declares 
that all writing, not only the symbolic but writing in general, is 
the result of a fusion of the material and the mental, accompanied 
by an individual process of selection. "I find a provision, in the 
constitution of the world," he says, "for the writer or secretary, 
who is to report the doings of the miraculous spirit of life that 
everywhere work3 and throbs. His office is a reception of the facts 
into the mind, and then a selection of the eminent and characterist- 
ic experiences. . . The memory is a kind of looking-glass, which, 
having received the images of surrounding objects, is touched with 
life, and disposes them in a new order. The facts do not lie in it 
inert; but some subside and others shine; so that soon we have a 
new picture, composed of the eminent experiences." 

Thus the individual mind garners from experience and 
Nature, sifts, and shapes into expression. In Emerson's discussion 
of style, however, the combination of the operations is not always 
prominent. Sometimes he emphasizes style as a copy of mind; at 
other times he lays stress on style as a copy of Nature. 

He often deals wholly with the intellectual product, and 
disregards the preparatory steps, regarding expression as a photo- 


graph of the writer's mind. He tells us, for instance, that in 
conversation with his brother Edward he "maintained that the Lycidas 
was a copy of the writer's mind printed out in the book, notwith- 
standing all the mechanical difficulties, as clear and wild as it 


had shone at first in the sky of his own thought." 

Evidently Lycidas , in Emerson's opinion, is the product of 
the higher and nobler part of Hilton's mind, the Reason, the individ- 
ual's share of the World Soul. And indeed, expression is truly 
adequate only when the writer's mind is submitted to and a part of 
the Divine Mind or Oversoul, for then the objects of Mature speak 
to him in their true sense as symbols. "The condition of true nam- 
ing, on the poet's part, is his resigning himself to the divine aura 
which breathes through forms, and accompanying that." When the mind 
is thus in unison with the Universal Spirit, "his speech is thunder, 
his thought is law, and his words are universally intelligible as 
the plants and animals." At such times intensity is necessary to 

accuracy. "The poet knows that he speaks adequately only when he 


speaks somewhat wildly or with the 'flower of the Mind.'" Emerson's 
highest wish in regard to expression is uttered in the quatrain: 

"0 Hafiz, give me thought — 

In fiery figures cast, 
For all beside is naught, 


All else is din and blast." 

And in the lines: 

"Jive me of the true , -- 
Whose ample leaves and tendrils curled 

12 3 
Jour . Ill, 571. Essays II: The Poet . Poems . 

Among the silver hills of heaven 
Draw everlasting dew; 
Wine of wine, 
Blood of the world, 

Form of forms, and mould of statures, 

That I intoxicated. 

And "by the draught assimilated, 

May float at pleasure through all natures; 

The "bird -language rightly spell, 


And that which roses say so well." 
It is olear, then, that words become one ?/ith mental things 
in the loftiest sense when the mental actions represented are them- 
selves elevated. Emerson himself secured what he believed to "be ex- 
act expression "by his method of setting down the results of his own 
communings with the divine spirit. Late in life he wrote in his 
Journals: "I am so purely a spectator that I have absolute confidence 
that all pure spectators will agree with me, whenever I make a care- 
ful report. I told Alcott that every one of my expressions concern- 
ing 'God, 1 or the 'soul,' etc., is entitled to attention as testi- 
mony, because it is independent, not calculated, not part of a sys- 
tem, but spontaneous, and the nearest word I could find to the 

thing." Emerson's success as an auditor of the spiritual is re- 
vealed in many shorter passages in his writings; it appears at 

length most notably in just those essays where we should expect to 


find it: those on the Qversoul and Spiritual Laws . 

The connection between the Oversoul and adequacy in ex- 

1 2 3 

Poems : Bacchus . Jour . X, 191. Essays I. 

pression extends to include two important corollaries . The first is 
the classification of literature into what Emerson calls primary and 
secondary. The other is the recognition of the fact that there are 
some expressions which because of their relationship to the Oversoul 
or outgrowth from it, are ultimate phrasings of divine truth, not to 
"be improved upon. 

Writing which issues intimately from the promptings of 
the Oversoul, which is inspired, is nearer the truth than mere re- 
flections of other men's inspiration. Emerson classifies literature 
as primary or secondary. Primary literature includes all the sacred 
books or bibles of the world; all writing in which the spiritualand 
the symbolic are combined anew without reference to similar litera- 
ture in the past. "The old psalms and Gospels are as mighty as 
ever; showing that what people call religion is literature; that is 
to say, — here was one who knew how to put his statement, and it 
stands forever, and people feel its truth, as he did, and say. Thus 

said the Lord , whilst it is only that he had the true literary gen- 


ius , which they fancy they despise." Primary literature includes 

also Dante's Vita IJuova . which, Emerson says, "reads like the book 

of Genesis, as if written before literature, whilst truth yet ex- 


isted. .. It is the Bible of Love." On the other hand, such a 
writer as Shelley, though his ideas are Platonic, is not newly and 
independently conscious of these ideas; he writes secondarily. 
Harsh comment has been made regarding Emerson's critical ability 
because of his failure to appreciate Shelley; and it seems surpris- 
ing that with such community of belief there should not have been 

more sympathy on Emerson's part. The explanation lies in his oon- 
, _ , - 

Jour . IX, 345-6. Jour . VI, 418. 


viction of the secondariness of Shelley's poems: "Shelley," he 

says, "is never a poet. His mind is uniformly imitative; all his 

poems composite. A fine English scholar he is, with taste, and ear, 

and memory; but imagination, the original authentic fire of the bard, 

he has not. He is clearly modern, and shares with Wordsworth and 

Coleridge, Byron and Hemans the feeling of the Infinite, which so 

labors for expression in their different genius. But all his lines 

are arbitrary, not necessary, and therefore, though evidently a de- 


vout and brave man, I can never read his verses." 

Imitation is to be avoided, but there are some words which 
we cannot and should not wish to do without, though they have been 
used for ages. Such words are philosophical or sacred in import; 
they are the expressions of the common sense of mankind regarding 
it3 knowledge of the Oversoul. Emerson is fond of Coleridge's state- 
ment, "Language think3 for us." Garlyle, he says, has added nothing 
to the meaning already crystallized in the word hero . In the most 
common words is packed the philosophical and religious wisdon of the 
centuries, so that "After a man has made great progress, and has 
come, as he fancies, to heights hitherto unsealed, the common words 
still fit his thought; nay, he only now finds for the first time how 
wise they were;-- .. Reason, Conscience, Substance, Accidence, 
Mature Relation, Fortune, Fate, Genius, Element, Person; — 'twill be 
long before he needs a new coat . . After the student has wasted 
all night speculating on his analogies and ties to the world and to 

the starry heaven, the first words he meets in the morning book are 


microcosm , macrocosm." 

12 3 
Jour . V, 344. Jour . VIII, 123. Jour . VIII, 17. 

And if these are "tools provided by the Genius of Humanity 
for the use of the philosopher, the religious writer is likewise in- 
debted. Emerson acknowledges the debt thus: "Iamblichus in answer 
to the query, 'Why of significant names we prefer such as are bar- 
baric to our own? 1 says among other reasons: 'Barbarous names have 
; much emphasis, greater conciseness, and less ambiguity, variety, and 
| multitude; 1 and then afterwards: 'But the Barbarians are stable in 
their manners, and firmly continue to employ the same words. Hence 
they are dear to the gods, and proffer words which are grateful to 
them.' .. Now the words 'God, 1 'Grace,' 'Prayer,' 'Heaven,' 'Hell,' 
are these barbarous and sacred words, to which we must still return, 
whenever we would speak an ecstatic and universal sense? There are 

] objections to them, no doubt, for academical use, but when the pro- 


lessor's gown is taken off, Man will come back to them." 

For the same reason as he respects single words in which 

adequate expression has once and for all been arrived at, Emerson 

holds proverbs in high regard. They are likewise "the literature 

of reason, or the statements of an absolute truth without qualifi- 

cation," so that "In any controversy concerning morals, an appeal 

may be made with safety to the sentiments which the language of the 

people expresses. Proverbs, words, and grammar-inflections convey 

the Dublic sense with more purity and precision than the wisest in- 

dividual." Of the same value are those passages from the masters 

of literature which because of their wise precision and universality 

are, as Emerson savs of Shakspeare, "pulverized into proverbs, and 


dispersed into human discourse." The relation of proverbs and other 

1 2 3 

Jour . Vi, 126-7. Essays I: Compensation . Essays II: 

Nominalist and P.ealist . Jour . VIII, 39. 


idiomatic language to the problems of style requires fuller dis- 
cussion elsewhere; here it is desirable merely to point out its con- 
nection with Emerson's conception of style as a reflection of the 
author's mind when it partakes of the qualities of the Universal 
Mind or Oversoul. 

Thus Emerson, in speaking of style, stresses its mental 
origin, especially when the relation of expression to the Oversoul 
is involved. But just as he sometimes disregards the material with 
which mind works, so, on the other hand, he may set aside, for the 
time, the mental operations and concentrate his attention on that 
which furnishes the substance of thought — Experience or Nature . His 
belief that style should mirror experience Emerson makes clear when 
he interprets with reference to style his wife's dream of a statue, 
"the speech of which was not quite speech either, but something bet- 
ter, which seemed at last identical with the thing itself spoken of. 
It described . . life and being; and then, by a few slight move- 
ments of the head and body, it gave the most forcible picture of 
death and decay and corruption, and then became all radiant again 
with the signs of the resurrection. I thought it a just description 
of that eloquence to which we are all entitled — are we not? — which 

shall be no idle tale, but the suffering of the action, and the 


action it describes." 

And as with experience, so also with Nature, when that 
furnishes the subject-matter. Wordsworth, says Emerson, "has writ 


lines that are like outward nature, so fresh, so simple, so durable." 
And even closer parallelism of feature may be desirable. In des- 

1 2 
Jour , VI, 129-30. Jour . VI, 402. 

oriptions of nature, the author is required to make almost a tracing 
of that whioh he is picturing. V/e find in the Journals: "The des- 
criptive talent in the poet seems to depend on a certain lakelike 
passiveness to receive the picture of the whole landscape in its 

native proportions, uninjured, and with sweet heedfulness the cau- 


tion of love, to transfer it to the tablets of language." Again 
Emerson writes: "I should like .. to have water color tried in the 
art of writing. Let our troubadours have one of these Spanish slopes 
of the dry ponds or basins which run from Walden to the river Pair- 
haven, in this September dress of color, under this glowering sky, — 

the Walden Sierras in September, given as a theme, and they required 


to daguerrotype that in good words." 

Such comparisons between drawing or painting and writing 
as are made in these two passages are frequent in Emerson, partly, 
of course, as the result of their common use as mediums of express- 
ion. Two other reasons for their occurrence are more peculiarly 

He believes, as we have seen, that each small law holds 
universally; and hence is pleased to show that the laws of one art 
apply to another. Emerson manifests no concern over the confusion 
of the genres; he is governed not by the Laokoon, but by the doc- 
trine of Each and All. Under the heading en kai pan he writes in 
his Journal: "An intelligent painter, for example, cannot give rules 
for his art, or suggest hints for the direction or correction of 
his scholar, without saying what is pertinent and true to a far 

greater extent than the circle of painting; e. g., "No great painter 


is nice in pencils' ; ' Nulla dies sine Iinea . 1 " 

I I 3 

Jour. VI, 361. Jour VII, 505. Jour . IV, 26. 

The other reason, which relates directly to our present 
subject of style as an immediate copy of Nature, is that a word- 
painting of Nature has a similar effect to that of Nature itself. 
Since Nature is the expression of spirit, it is a riddle, constant- 
ly hinting at its solution, always revealing partial answers, but 
never giving up its complete secret. And a word-facsimile of Nature, 
a verbal landscape painting, affords similar tantalizing glimpses. 

Nature, in Emerson's view, is a mysterious book, always 
open, yet intelligible only on occasion. Even when its message can- 
not be read, it fascinates. "Every object in Nature," Emerson says, 
"is a word to signify some fact in the mind. But when that fact is 
not yet put into English words, when I look at the tree or the river 
and have not yet definitely made out what they would say to me, they 
are by no means unimpressive. I wait for them, I enjoy them before 
they yet speak. I feel as if I stood by an ambassador charged with 

the message of his king, which he does not deliver because the hour 


has not yet arrived." I "feel," he says in another passage, "that 

every one of those remarkable effects v/hich occasionally catch and 

delight the eye, as, for example, a long vista in the woods, trees 

on the shore of a lake coming quite down to the water, a long-reach 

in a river, a double or triple row of uplands seen one over the 

other .. must be the rhetoric of some thought not yet detached for 


the conscious intellect." Such "dim anticipation of profound mean- 

ing" explains the love of nature. "What is that," asks Emerson, 

"but the presentiment of intelligence of it? Nature preparing to be 


a language to us?" 

Thus Nature is a cipher always hinting at its true solu- 

Natural History of Intellect : Powers and Laws of Thought . 
2 3 4 

Jour. V, 470-1. Jour. V, 76. Jour . V, 510. 

tion; it is always just ready to pull aside the curtain which sep- 
arates the human from the divine. Therefore a literal transcription 
of parts of ilature into language will suggest a spiritual meaning, 
even if it does not declare it directly. Of interest, accordingly, 
in connection with Emerson's conception of style as a copy of Nature 
is his joy in the mere names of natural objects, not because of what 
they signify hut "because of what they intimate. And it is important, 
too, that as a consequence of his pleasure in such intimations, he 
finds value in poetry which consists of nothing more esoteric than 
a list of natural objects accurately described. 

Emerson takes a delight in British place-names no less 
keen though more philosophically motivated than that which has in- 
spired the modern philologist to delve into their origins: "The 
names are excellent, — an atmosphere of legendary melody spread over 
the land. Older than all epics and histories which clothe a nation, 
this undershirt sits close to the body. What history too, and what 
stores of primitive and savage observation it infolds! .. Waltham 
is 3trong town; Radcliffe is red cliff; and so on: — a sincerity and 
use in naming \ery striking to an American, whose country is white- 
washed all over by unmeaning names, the cast-off clothes of the 
country from which its emigrants came; or named at a pinch from a 
psalm- tune. But the English are those 'barbarians' of Jamblichus, 

who 'are stable in their manners, and firmly continue to employ the 


same words, which are also dear to the gods.'" 


Botanical names also have their charms. In Concord Walks , 
Emerson recommends an arboretum of trees and plants which have leg- 
endary, biblical, or historical associations, such as the upas, as- 

" 1 2 

Engl i sh Traits : Aristocracy . Natural History of In- 
tellect . 



phodel, nepenthe, haeraony, moly, spikenard, and lotus. But the 
poetry in such names may be muoh more indirect. Emerson finds charm 
even in an apparently so technical treatise as the Report of Herba - 
ceous Plant s in Massachusetts . For "the mere names of reeds and 
grasses, of the milkweeds, of the mint tribe and the gentians, of 
mallows and trefoils," being up images, and "the names are poems 
often. Erigeron , because it grows old early, is thus named the Old 
Man of the Spring. .. The Plantain (Plantago Major) is called by 
the Indians Vftiite Llan' s foot. . . The naming of the localities com- 
forts us — 'ponds, 1 'shady roads,' 'sandy woods,' 'wet pastures.' I 

begin to see the sun and moon, and to share the life of Nature, as 


under the spell of the sweetest pastoral poet." 

And in fact poetry itself may be composed of similar con- 
stituents. "Thus Thomson's 'Seasons' and the best parts of many old 
and new poets are simply enumerations by a person who felt the beauty 

of the common sights and sounds, without any attempt to draw a moral 


or affix a meaning." 

As Emerson regards expression, then, it is adequate if it 
is an accurate record of thought; or of the substance of the thought, 
Nature and experience; or in case the two are properly combined 
through the activity and selectiveness of the individual intelli- 
gence. 7/hichever it may be, it gains in worth if it is spiritual in 
character, either as a result of the individual Reason's communion 
with the Oversoul, or through the symbolic character of Nature, even 
when the ideal truth symbolized is but vaguely suggested. 

1 £ 3 

See also Jour .VI, 224. Jour . VI, 193-4. Letters , 

etc.: Poetry and Imagination. 


— 8G— 

o . Limitati ons 

So far the requirements of adequacy in expression involve 
a pertinacious heed to accuracy in describing both the material and 
the ideal; and an earnest attempt at exact rendering of either the 
mental, or the material, or the fusion of the tv/ain. Such complexity 
and uncertainty of aim as these stylistic conceptions must cause is 
sufficient in itself to indicate the limitations of language as a 
medium of communication. That these exist is indeed pointed at ob- 
viously enough by the fact that poetry may satisfy even if composed 
of an unadorned series of natural phenomena accurately depicted. 

Emerson craves adequacy; the word and thing should be one. 
And yet he recognizes that for several reasons words are ineffective 
means of utterance. In the first place, language i3 restricted in 
capacity; words are inherently far distant from things. In the sec- 
ond place, some things which language tries to convey it is not meet 
that human beings should be potent to phrase; anything partaking of 
the Spirit, including Nature, its method of expression, is, in major 
decree , ineffable. In the third place, shortcomings may develop 
from the writer 1 3 own weakness; he may be unable to compass that com- 
bination of elevation and submission which marks the unity of the 
individual mind with the Oversoul, and as a result the time or the 
literary point of view may enter to invalidate the purity of his 
writing . 

Language is intrinsically defective. It is not a direct 
mode of conveying thought. It describes, rather than i_s the thing. 
And it is this only when it is successful; more often it merely sug- 
gests. "As Boscovitch taught that two particles of matter never 
touch, 30 it seems true that nothing can be described exactly as it 

is. The most accurate picture is only symbols and suggestions of 


the thing, but, from the nature of the language, all remote." "We 

learn with joy and wonder this new and flattering art of language, 

deceived by the exhilaration which accompanies the attainment of 

each new word. We fancy we gain somewhat. We gain nothing. It 

seemed to men that words come nearer to the thing; described the 

fact; were the fact. They learned later that they only suggest it. 

It is an operose, circuitous means of putting us in mind of the 


thing, --of flagellating our attention." 

It is interesting that when Emerson conveyed to Garlyle 
his sense of the feebleness of language, Garlyle replied in entire 
agreement: "What you say about the vast imperfection of all modes 
of utterance is most true indeed. Let a man speak and sing and do, 
and sputter and gesticulate as he may, --the meaning of him is most 
ineffectually shown forth, poor fellow; rather indicated as if by 


straggling symbols, then spoken or visually expressed! Poor fellow" 

Thus language suffers from a general incompetence, Fur- 
ther particular difficulties beset it. "There are many things that 


refuse to be recorded, — perhaps the larger half." These things are 
spiritual. When Emerson speaks of Spirit, of the Oversoul, even of 
Character, he almost invariably includes a word concerning the diffi- 
culty of saying anything exact about the subject. "Of that in- 
effable essence we oall Spirit," he writes, "he that thinks most, 
will say least. We can foresee God in the coarse, and, as it were, 
distant phenomena of matter; but when we try to define and describe 

himself, both language and thought desert us, and we are as helpless 


as fools and savages." of the Oversoul, he declares: "Language can- 
- — - - 

Jour . IV, 266. Jour . VI, 274-5. . E. Gorr II, 98-9. 

4 5 
Jour. Ill, 492. Ilatur e , etc.: Spirit . 

1 - yu - 

not paint it with his colors. It is too subtle." In a letter to a 

Quaker friend, he wrote: "For the science of God our language is un- 

jexpressive and merely prattle; we need simpler and universal signs, 

as algebra compared with arithmetic. .. And when we have heaped up 

a mountain of speeches, we have still to begin again, having nowise 


expressed the simple unalterable fact." Of theism he writes in his 
Journals : "Here we feel at once that we have no language ; that words 

are only auxiliary and not adequate, are suggestions and not copies 


of our cogitation." And even when the human and divine meet, as in 

life and character, he feels no greater certainty of achievement. 

Of "this omnipresent riddle of life," he writes: "Nobody can state 

it. Speech pants after it in vain; all poetry, all philosophy in 

their parts, or entire, never express it, though that is still their 

aim; they only approximate it. Uobody can say what everybody feels, 

and what all would jump to hear, if it 3hould be said, and moreover, 


which all have a confused belief might be 3aid." And concerning the 

comparatively unmysterious element called character, he admits modest- 


ly: "We are painting the lightning with charcoal." 

Hot only is Emerson troubled by the troubles language meets 

with in describing God and his attributes, but he is aware of its 

difficulty in reaching that degree of intensity of expression which 

betokens true union with the divine. Doubtfully he inquires: "Do 


you think ecstasy is ever communicable?" And in another mystical 
passage in his Journals, he reflects: "I think that he only is right- 
ly immortal to whom all things are immortal; he who witnesses per- 

12 3 
2ssay3 I: Overs oul . Representative Man , 316-7. Jour . 
4 5 6 

IV, 416. Jour . IV, 29. Assays I: Character . Jour . VII, 522. 

sonally the creation of the world; he who enunciates profoundly the 

names of Pan, of Jove, of Pallas, of Bacchus, of Proteus, of Baal, 

of Ahriman, of Hari , of Satan, of Hell, of Nemesis, of the Furies, 

of Odin, and of Hertha ; — knowing well the need he has of these, and 

a far richer vocabulary; knowing well how imperfect and insufficient 

to his needs language is: requiring music, requiring dancing, as 

languages; a dance, for example, that shall insensibly express our 


astronomy, our solar system, and seasons, in its course." 

Wot only the Divine, but Nature, itself the language of 

spirit, is also too sacred in character to be wholly paralleled in 

words. "Nature will outwit the wisest writer, though it were Plato 

or Spinoza, and his book will fall into the dead limbo we call litera- 


ture: else the writer were God, too, and his work another Uature." 


At the beginning of his lecture on The Method of Uature , iLmerson 

aays that the subject is one in which "we must necessarily appeal to 

the intuitions, and aim much more to suggest that to describe." We 

have seen that limerson wishes the writer to paint Uature accurately 

and thereby obtain insight into the Spiritual. The difficulty of 

so doing, however, he expresses frequently. "The word can never 


cover the thing. You don't expect to describe a sunrise." He speaks 

of "the live repose v/hich that amphitheatre of a valley behind Ball's 

Hill reflects to my eye, and which Homer or Shakspeare could not re- 


form for me in words." Both despair and hope appear in his Journal 
record: "As I looked at some wild, tall trees this afternoon, I felt 
that Nature was still inaccessible; that, for all the fine poems that 
have been v/ritten, the word is not yet spoken that can cover the 
charm of morning or evening or woods or lakes, and to-morrow some- 

5 Jour. IV, 145. 

1 2 3 4 

Jour . VII, 228. Jour. VI, 550. Natur e , etc. Jour . Ill , 286 . 


thins may "be uttered "better than any strain of Pindar or Shakspear." 


The poem ky_ Garden is chiefly an expression of this thought. In 
another poem, The World- Soul , occur the lines, 

"We cannot learn the cipher 
That's writ upon our cell; 
Stars taunt us by a mystery 


Which we could never spell." 
Because of their divine character, language is thus in- 
capable of representing Spirit, or Nature, the expression of Spirit. 

Another handicap which it encounters is their "infinite diffuse- 

ness." "What baulks all language is, the broad, radiating, immense- 
ly distributive action of nature or spirit. If it were linear, if 
it were successive, step by step, jet after jet, like our small 


human agency, we could follow it with language; but it mocks us." 
In conviction of weakness, Emerson exclaims: "Can you hear what the 
morning says to you, and believe that ? Can you bring home the sum- 
mits of Wachusett, Greylock, and the Uew Hampshire hills? the Savin- 
groves of iliddlesex? the sedgy ripples of the old Colony ponds? the 
sunny shores of our own bay, and the low Indian hills of Rhode Is- 
land? the savageness of pine-woods? Can you bottle the efflux of a 
June noon, and bring home the tops of Uncanoonuc? The landscape is 

vast, complete, alive. Vie step about, dibble and riot , and attempt 


in poor linear ways to hobble after those angelic radiations." 

Thus adequacy of utterance may be hindered or rendered im- 
possible through the inefficiency of language as a medium. It is 
inherently indirect; and it is a human instrument, unfitted for des- 

1. 2 3 4 5 

Jour . IV, 145. Poems . Poem 3 . Jour . VI, 65. Jour . IX, 


114. Natural History of Intellect : Country Life . 

cription of the divine. There are other obstacles to expression 

which have muoh more to do with the writer than with his tools. For 

one thing, the character of the writer's mind has a good deal to 

do with his power of achievement; this has been evident in all that 

has been said of the relation of style to the Oversoul. Bxaltation 

of the individual intelligence and surrender to the World Spirit 

are indispensable to the writer who is trying to represent divine 

thought, and the lack thereof will damage or nullify the effect of his 

writing. "I dare not speak for it," says Emerson in his essay on 

the Oversoul. "My words do not carry its august sense; they fall 
cold and short. Only itself can inspire whom it will." 

Completeness of submission to the divine voice alone can 
bring about adequate expression. But utter obedience and hence en- 
tire success are often prevented by two other forces: the time and 
the literary point of view. 

Fidelity to the fact is difficult because the spirit of the 

age i3 always intruding. "We sit down to write truly, and end with 

making a book that contains no thought of ours, but merely the tune 

of the time. Here I am writing a 4>Bj£ poem, free to say what I 

choose, and it looks to me now as if it would scarce express thought 

of mine, but be a sort of fata morgana reflecting the images of 


Byron, Shakespear, and the newspapers." "As no air-pump can by any 
means make a perfect vacuum, so neither can the artist entirely ex- 
clude the local, the perishable from his book, or write a book of 
pure thought that shall be as efficient in all respects to a remote 
posterity, as to contemporaries, or rather to the second age. iSaoh 
age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each genera- 

1 2 
Assays I. Jour . Ill, 333. 


tion for the next succeeding . " 

The interference vhich the literary point of view entails 
Kmerson explains as derived from the inferiority of the writing pro- 
cess to the thought which it is trying to reproduce. The thought 
partakes of the nature of Reason, "being uncalculated and natural. 
The writing process is for practical ends, and is of the Understand- 
ing, artificial and carefully contrived. Emerson thus relates the 
complexities of the situation: "How hard to write the truth. 'Let 

a man rejoice in the truth, and not that he has found it, 1 said my 

early oracle. '.Veil, so soon as I have seen the truth I clap my hands 

and rejoice, and go "back to see it and forward to tell men. I am 

so pleased therewith that presently it vanishes.. Then am I submiss, 

and it appears 'without observation. ' I write it down, and it is 

gone. Yet is the benefit of others and their love of receiving 

truth from me the reason of my interest and effort to obtain it, and 

thus do I double and treble with God. The Reason refuses to play 

at couples with the Understanding; to subserve the private ends of 


the Understanding." 

To the same purport, though transcendental terms are laid 
aside on this occasion, Emerson writes: "'nThat mischief is in thi3 
art of writing. An unlettered man considers a fact, to learn what 
it means; the lettered man does not sooner 3ee it than it occurs to 
him how it can be told. And this fact of looking at it as an artist 
blinds him to the better half of the fact. Unhappily he is con- 
scious of the misfortune, which rather makes it worse. As culti- 
vated flowers turn their stamens to petals, so does he turn the 

1 2 
Nature , etc.: The American Scholar . His aunt, I,larv iioodv 


pnerson. Jour . IV, 74-5. 

practick part to idle 3how. He has a morbid growth of eyes; he 


3ees with his feet." The oritic especially is thus hampered. "The 

most important difference in criticism is whether one writes from 

life, or from a literary point of view. ' Tis difficult for a writer 

not to be bookish and conventional. If he writes from manly ex- 


perience and feeling, his page is a power." 

Emerson makes strenuous demands on the writer. 7/ords 
should fit the thing, should cover the thing, should be one with 
things. The writer cannot rest easy if he does not describe the 
material fact precisely; he must also hold himself to the highest 
possible standards of exact adjustment when he describes spirituali- 
ties. He strives for expression which proceeds directly from and 
reflects a judiciously arrived at union of the physical and the 
mental; though often he is less interested in the amalgamation than 
in copying either the mental operations or Uature itself. 

Yet at the same time achievement of these desiderata is 

in many ways impossible. 2mer3on agrees with his Swedenborgian 

friend, Sampson Reed, that is only in heaven that words become one 

with things. Earthly language is a roundabout way of getting at 

the thing; it is, furthermore, because of its terrene character, 

unsuited to the expression of the heavenly, even when, as in Uature, 

it is but partly divulged. It is not the thing, but a suggestion, 

an approximation of it. And as if these were not enough hindrances 

to adequacy, the writer's spiritual insight may be deficient; he is, 

whatever his aspirations to declare eternal laws , to a considerable 

extent a creature of time and circumstance; and he may be diverted 

from the truth by the very fact that he is a writer. 
- - 3 

Jour . Ill, 332. Jour . IX, 281. Jour . Ill, 491-2. 


As Gilbert has it in the Mikado , "Here's a howdy-do 1" 
VThat is the author to do? He has been spurred on to intense effort, 
and then, in the midst of it, he is assured that it is all to no 
end. So far as it goes, the way out of his predicament is simple: 
Attempt the impossible. It should be the aim of language, at least, 
"to describe the fact and not merely suggest it. If you, with 
these sketchers and dilettanti, give me some conscious, indetermi- 
nate, compound word, it is like a daub of color to hide the defects 

of your drawing. Sharper sight would see and indicate the true 


line. The poet both draws well, and colors at the same time." "Our 

aim in all our writings ought to be to make daylight shine through 


The writer "counts it all nonsense that they say, that 

some things are undescribable. He believes that all that can be 

thought can be written, first or last; and he would report the Holy 

Ghost, or attempt it. Nothing so broad, so subtle, or so dear, 

but comes therefore commended for his pen, — and he will write. In 

his eyes, a man is the faculty of reporting, and the universe is 

the possibility of being reported. .. Whatever can be thought can 

be spoken, and still rises for utterance, though to rude and 

stammering organs. If they cannot compass it, it waits and works, 

until, at last, it moulds them to its perfect will, and is arti- 

culated. " 

Emerson's attitude toward adequacy in expression, not 
only in theory but also in practice, is one of mingled determination 
and realization of impossibility. He frequently acknowledges in- 

18 3 
Jour . VI, 215. Jour . V, 198. Hepresentative Men : Goeth e, 

capacity; and yet goes on to try just the same. This is especially 
characteristic of the essays in which he speaks of the difficulty or 
defeat encountered in describing the Divine, and Mature, its out- 
ward reflection. He confesses his inability to express his feeling 
about the Oversoul, and writes perhaps his noblest essay. He de- 
clares in conviction of futility: "If you wish to know the short- 
comings of poetry and language, try to reproduce the October picture 


to a city conroany." Yet that he creates the Indian Summer perfectly 


his second essay on Nature testifies, ^.nd there are other examples 

of his close attainment to what he declares cannot be, in Spiritual 

3 4 5 

Laws, in Works and Days . and in the first essay on nature . The 


following lines from I*Iy_ Garden sum up his problem, his failure, 
and his success: 

"Wandering voices in the air 
And murmurs in the wold 
Speak what I cannot declare, 
Yet cannot all withhold." 
If iSmerson recognizes the partial quality of his own 
success, and is conscious of the difficulties of expression for all 
writers, he does not, on that account, lose his optimism. He writes 
to Garlyle: "Burns might have added a better verse to his poem, im- 
porting that one might write Iliads or Hamlets, and yet come short 

of truth by infinity, as every written word must; but 'the man's a 


gowd for a' that." And though so far as he is himself concerned he 
tells Garlyle that he is "certain and content that the truth can 
very well spare me, and have itself spoken by another without leav- 
ing it or me the worse," he is bold enough to write also: "My faith 
- _ 

ilatural History of Intellect : Country Life . iilssaj/s II. 
3 ^says I . ^ Society and Solitude . ^I Jature , et c . °Poerns . 7 J .^.Corr , I , 

in the Writers, as an organic class, increases daily, and in the 

possibility to a faithful man of arriving at statements for which 

he shall not feel responsible, hut which shall he parallel with 

nature. " 


G. 2. Gorr, II, 58-9. 


£ — Each and All 

Belief in the symbol as the ideal form of expression 
cooperates with and includes another doctrine prominent in Emerson's 
collection--that of Each and All, as he most frequently describes 
it, or the One and the Many, to use its Platonic and more usual 
name. This involves the conception that any natural or spiritual 
law, or the whole of Nature or of Spirit, is discoverable, realiz- 
able, and predicable through proper understanding of any single 
object in Nature, Each little drop of water includes and typifies 
all that is knowable of the mighty ocean; each grain of sand wholly 
represents the pleasant land. Furthermore, since everything in 
Nature is the expression of Spirit, either drop or grain is a com- 
plete conveyor of Divine Truth. Everything in Nature affords the 
basis for earthly or spiritual generalization. All is in each. 

The application of this theory to art and to literature 
is not difficult; and when once applied it has extensive conse- 
quences. These radiate from the point at which the doctrine of 
Each and All meets the belief in the Symbol. The purpose of every 
art, so Emerson believes, is to represent the One, or Spirit, as 
the Reason, the higher part of the intelligence, perceives it. But 
this ideal One can be expressed only through the Many, the objects 
of Nature and experience; the material affords an indirect, but 
the sole means of conveying the eternal Unity. Thus in writing, 
the symbol, by which the ideal is expressed under a variety of 
material forms, maices the expression of Identity possible. 

To the mutability of the Many in the service of communi- 
cating the One, Emerson admits no exceptions. "The metamorphosis 


of Uature," he says, "shows itself in nothing more than this, that 
there is no word in our language that oannot become typioal to us 
of Nature by giving it emphasis. The world is a Danoer; it is a 
Rosary; it is a Torrent; it is a Boat; a Mist; a Spider's Snare; 
it is what you will; and the metaphor will hold, and it will give 
the imagination keen pleasure. Swifter than light the world con- 
verts itself into that thing you name, and all things find their 


right place under this new and capricious classification." 

This infinite dilation to which every object may be 
subjected has the effect of making every symbol suggestive of the 
universal Identity, liven though the writer's purpose is but to find 
a particular material expression for his particular ideal thought, 
without any conscious attempt to typify the pervading oneness of 
Spirit, the symbol has a haunting charm arising from its intima- 
tion that since this thing is interchangeable for that, the cause 
of the convertibility must be a comprehensive Unity. And here in- 
deed is the origin of figures of speech. "Metonomy, " writes Em- 
erson in his Journals , "seems to begin in the slightest change of 
name, or, detecting identity under variety of surface. Boys please 
themselves with crying to the coachman, 'Put on the string,' in- 
stead of lash . With calling a fire-engine a tub ; and the engine 
men Tigers . A boy's game of ball is called Pour Old Gats. Poetry 
calls a snake a worm . In a shipwreck, the sea novel finds ' Cordil- 
leras of water.'" One more example, particularly pleasing to the 

idealist, "I can never lose the ludicrous effect of using the word 

tin for money . " 

livery symbol, therefore, expresses both a particular and 

1 2 
Jour. VI, 18. Jour. VIII, 296-7. 

_ m _ 


a universal truth; and thus the theories of Each and All and of 
the Symbol are, strictly speaking, inseparable. 

To the theory of Each and All as well as to Emerson's 

Yankee common sense is to he attributed his success in avoiding the 

error into which more mystic and less poetical idealists have fallen 

in their use of the symbol. This is the fallacy of assuming a 

rigid correspondence between liature and Spirit, part for part, as 

if any one form could be used symbolically in just one fixed way. 

Emerson deplores especially Swedenborg's theological tendency to 

see one absolutely set equation of meaning between the natural and 

the divine: "The slippery Proteus in not so easily caught. In 

nature, each individual symbol plays innumerable parts, as each 

particle of matter circulates in turn through every system. The 

central identity enables any one symbol to express successively all 

the qualities and shades of real being. In the transmission of the 


heavenly waters, every hose fits every hydrant." 

The consequences of this belief on Emerson's style de- 
serve specific notice. Having found an individual symbol, which 
some moment's inspiration has consecrated, he feels perfectly free 
to U3e it later in application to something quite different. V/hen 
the poet has interpreted natural objects in one way, Emerson says, 

he does not "rest in this meaning, but he makes the same objects 


exponents of his next thought." 


So in Civilization , after Emerson has spoken of the 

mechanical advantages man has gained by harnessing the elements, 

and has said that it is man's "wisdon .. to hitch his wagon to a 
_ g 

Piepr e3ent ,: i.t ive Men : Swedenborg . Essays II: The Poet. 


Society and Solitud e. 

I = _^____==_ 


star," he does not hesitate, later in the same essay, to apply the 

same figure to the desirability of making everyday material life 

ideal in character. "Our aim in all our writings," reads a sentence 


in the journals, "oue;ht to be to make daylight shine through them." 


^nd in Spiritual Laws , we read: "The object of a man .. is to 
make daylight shine through him." In one case the figure is used 
for a stylistic, in the other for a moral purpose. Quotations Emer- 
son uses in similar fashion. "To the persevering mortals the 

blessed Immortals are swift," an aphorism from Zoroaster, is used 

3 4 
in Self -Reliance to show the foolishness of regret; in Inspiration 

to make plain the stimulative value of steady, continuous work. 

Not only may the same symbol be used in differently 
figurative ways, but the same idea may be typified by an indefinite 
number of symbols; and in this converse fashion Emerson again sees 
identity in variety. An interesting result of this attitude appears 
in his belief that religious and philosophical phrases are convert- 
ible into one another. Since all religions fundamentally rest on 
the same principles, the symbolic names which they employ must be 
interchangeable. "In matters of religion," he says, "men eagerly 
fasten their eyes on the differences between their creed and yours, 

whilst the charm of the study is in finding the agreements and 


identities in all the religions of men." "Fortune, kinerva, Lluse , 
Holy Ghost, — these are quaint names, too narrow to cover this un- 
bounded substance .. — ineffable cause, which every fine genius 
has essayed to represent by some emphatic symbol, as Thales by water, 
Anaximenes by air, Anaxagoras by(Vo"-5j thought, Zoroaster by fire, 

I 2 3 4 

Jour . V, 198. Essnys I. Essays I. Letters , etc. 


Lectures, etc. 


Jesua and the moderns by love; and the metaphor of each has become 


a national religion." Philosophical names for the same thing are 

equally diverse. "Yoganidra, the goddess of illusion, Proteus, or 

Lloraus , or Gylfi'a Mocking, — for the Power has many names, — is strong 


er than the Titans, stronger than Apollo." 

Other notable passages in which synonymous symbols of this 


kind are assembled occur in Character with regard to superstitious 


fear of popular opinion; and in Work 3 and Days . with regard to the 
value of the humble moment, in other words, one important aspect of 
the Each and All theory itself. Illustrations from fable, religion, 
and science combine here to make up a frequent type of Emersonian 
paragraph, a collection of examples pointing at the unity of some 
spiritual law. 

"In the Norse legend of our ancestors, Odin dwells in a 
fisher 1 s hut and patches a boat. In the Hindoo legends, Hari dwells 
a peasant among peasants. In the Greek legend, Apollo lodges with 
the shepherds of Admetus, and Jove liked to rusticate among the poor 
Ethiopians. So, in our history, Jesus is born in a barn, and his 
twelve peers are fishermen. 1 Tis the very principle of science that 
Hature shows herself best in leasts; it was the maxim of Aristotle 
and Lucretius; and, in modern time3, of Swedenborg and of Hahnemann. 
The order of changes in the egg determines the age of fossil strata. 
So it was the rule of our poets, in the legends of fairy lore, that 
the fairies largest in power were the least in size." 

The union of the theories of the Symbol and of Each and 

All ha3 in these minor ways considerable bearing on Emerson's style. 
- - 

Essays II: Experience . Conduct of Life : Illusions . 
3 4 
assays II. Society and Solitude . 


Much more important, however, is its effect on two stylistic pro- 
blems which Emerson has to face as the consequence of his philosophic 
beliefs. Since, indeed, these two problems, most especially the 
second, involve consideration of all the specific qualities of dic- 
tion which Emerson favored, the doctrine of Each and All has a pre- 
ponderating influence on his theory and practice of style at least 
so far a3 vocabulary i3 conoerned. 

Both problems have connection with the desirability of 
simplicity in language. The first is the question of the relation- 
ship of author to audience. The other and by far more important 
concerns the method by which Emerson found it possible, in theory 
anyway, to separate sharply the expression of the actual from that of 
the ideal, or to express them simultaneously; these, as we have seen, 
being the inconsistent requirements he sets the writer. 

There is much in Emerson' s theories which works against 
consideration of the audience, at any rate against dilution or adult- 
eration of the writer's thought to suit any incapacity there may be 
in the reader's intelligence. Emerson abides by his belief in Self- 
Reliance, which counsels him to receive with implicit trust the 
declarations of the Oversoul, and to record them in their purity. 
But the ban against taking the reader into account does not hold in 
regard to the choice of vocabulary; and Emerson is often enabled, 
by manes of his adherence to the doctrine of Each and All, to sur- 
mount the barrier to clearness raised by the other tenet. For the 
theory of the One and the Liany makes simple phrasing, even of the 
ideal, possible, indeed desirable. 

Since "there is no fact in nature which does not carry the 
whole sense of nature .. the distinction which we make in events 


and affairs, of low and high, honest and base, disappears when nature 

is used as a symbol." "Small and mean things," Emerson declares, 


"serve as well as great symbols." "There is nothing small or mean 
to the soul. It derives as grand a joy from symbolizing the God- 
head or his universe under the form of a moth or a gnat as of the 


Lord of Hosts." 

In two ways, in fact, the simple figure is superior to the 

great. It has, first of all, the value of a miracle: it surprises 

and assures of divinity. "The deepest pleasure come3 .. from the 

occult belief that an unknown meaning and consequence lurk in the 

common, every-day facts, and as a panoramic or pictorial beauty can 

arise from it, so can a solid wisdom, when the Idea shall be seen as 


such which binds these gay shadows together." "Must I," Emerson 
asks, "call the heaven and earth a maypole aid country fair with 
booths, or an anthill, or an old coat, in order to give you the shock 
of pleasure which the imagination love3 and the sense of spiritual 
greatness? Gall it a blossom, a rod, a wreath of parsley, a tamarisk- 
crown, a cock, a sparrow, the ear instantly hears and the spirit 


leaps to the trope." 

Another value of the simple figure is its portability. 
"The meaner the type by which a law is expressed, the more pungent it 
is, and the more lasting in the memories of men; just a3 we choose 


the smallest box or case in which any needful utensil may be carried." 

In these ways, the doctrine of Each and All makes sim- 
plicity in the use of symbols devoutly to be wished, and intelligi- 
bility possible. Of Emerson's attitude tov/ard simplicity of style in 

- - - 

Essays II: The Poet . Jour . VI, 18-9. Jour . IV, 99-100. 
4 5 
Jour . VI, 18-19. Essays II: The Poet . 


general, "both in theory and practice, there are many direct in- 
dications. In college days, Emerson shared the admiration of his 
day for the floridity and inflation characteristic of contemporary 
oratory. His Journals contain lists of words selected for their 
strangeness and availability as embellishment. As a matter of fact, 
too, throughout his writings there are traceable occasional re- 
turns to his earlier love for grandiloquence, this being combined 
usually with his wish to express intensely the messages communicated 
to him by the Oversoul. But for the most part this disposition to 
ornateness was soon replaced by recognition of the superiority of 

In 1826, at the wise maturity of 23, he wrote in his 
Journals : "The aliquifl immensum , etc., is best left to each man's 
youthful and private meditations. This straining to say what is un- 
utterable, and vain retching with the imbecile use of great words, 


is nauseous to sound and sense and good taste." There is, moreover, 
much testimony to the simplicity of the sermons whioh Emerson de- 
livered during his pastorate at the Second Church; and evidence 
that he deliberately set out to make his sermons plain in diction 
and allusion. At the beginning of his ministry (in 1829) he spoke 
to his congregation v/ords which suggest that he had at this time 
found a Christian basis for the principle which he later supported 
by the Platonic and scientific doctrine of Each and All: "If any 
one hereafter should object to the want of sanctity of my style 
and the want of solemnity in my illustrations, I shall remind him 
that the language and the images of scripture derive all their dig- 
nity from their association with divine truth, and that our Lord 

Memoir I, 151-2. 


condescended to explain himself by allusion to every homely fact, 

and if he addressed himself to this age, would appeal to those arts 

and objects by which we are surrounded; to the printing-press and 

the loom, to the phenomena of steam and gas, to free institutions and 


a petulant and vain nation." 

J.E. Cabot, Emerson's literary executor, finds, however, 

in the subsequent sermons (kept in manuscript at Emerson's request) 


few striking illustrations from everyday life and there seems to be 

truth in his brother Charles's comment, in a letter to their Aunt 

Mary: "I do not doubt he may write and be a fine thinker, all alone 

by himself, but I think he needs to be dragged closer to people by 


some practical vocation." This was written just before Emerson set 

sail for Europe in December, 1832. The desired contact was brought 

about by the trip, and was made stronger, after it, by residence in 

Concord. There, acquaintance with farmer and tradesman neighbors, 

his own domestic and farming duties and interests, and above all 

close acquaintance with field and stream gave him fresh, individual 

substance by which he could illustrate his philosophy in human and 

therefore simple terms. 

Conscious of the divinity of the source of his writings, 

Emerson made no attempt to submit this thoughts to the level of his 

audience'3 intelligence, rather assuming their ability to rise to 

truth of whatever degree of elevation. But he did believe that such 

truth should be presented in simple and understandable language, and 


considered "writing down" of this kind "a main secret." He had his 
audience of shopworkers and farmers in mind when he delivered lect- 
ures, and theugh he made the content of these thought of highest 
- - 3 

4 Memoir I, 149-50. Memoir I, 151-2. Memoir I, 174. 

Natur al History of Intellect : Art and Criticism. 


quality, he did his best to he simple and clear. How well he suc- 
ceeded is shown by the faot that the parishioners of the church in 
Bast Lexington complained of the preacher who took Emerson's place, 
saying that they were simple people, "but that they could understand 
Mr* Emerson. 

Emerson did not believe in using language intelligible to 

only the select few. "Gauss, I believe it is," he says, "who writes 

books that nobody can understand but himself, and himself only in 

his best hours. And Pierce and Gould and others in Cambridge are 

piqued with the like ambition. But I fancy more the wit of Defoe, 

and Cervantes, and Montaigne, who make deeu and abstruse things pop- 

ular." "Wendell Holmes, when I offered to go to his lecture on 

7/ordsworth, said, 'I entreat you not to go. I am forced to study 

effects. You and others may be able to combine popular effect with 

the exhibition of truths. I cannot. I am compelled to study 

effects.' The other day, Henry Thoreau was speaking to me about my 

lecture on the Anglo-American, and regretting that whatever was 

written for a lecture, or whatever succeeded with the audience was 

bad, etc. I said, I am ambitious to write something which all can 

read, like Robinson Crusoe . And when I have written a paper or a 

book, I see with regret that it is not solid, with a right material- 


istic treatment, which delights everybody." 


The rest of the passage seems worth repeating: "Henry 
objected, of course, and vaunted the better lectures which only 
reached a few persons. Well, yesterday, he came here, and at supper 
Edith, understanding that he was to lecture at the Lyceum, sharply 
asked him, 'Whether his lecture would be a nice interesting story, 
such as she wanted to hear, or whether it was of those old philoso- 
phical things that she did not care about?' Henry instantly turned 
to her, and bethought himself, and I saw was trying to believe that 
he had matter that might fit Edith and Edward, who were to sit up 
and go to the lecture, if it was a good one for them." Jour . Ill, 


If simplicity of language oan make it possible, Emerson 
sees advantage in bringing home eternal truth even to the dull, 
especially when the object is persuasion and the medium oratory. 
"Eloquence," he declares, "is the power t o translate a truth into 
language perfectly int elligible to the person to whom you speak * 
He who would convince the worthy Mr. Dunderhead of any truth which 
ilr. Dunderhead does not see, must be a master of his art. Declama- 
tion is common; but such possession of truth as is here required, 
such practical chemistry as the conversion of a truth written in 
God's language into a truth in Dunderhead's language, is one of the 

most beautiful and cogent weanons that are forged in the shop of the 


Divine Artificer." 

.Fortunately, this process of conversion is facilitated 
by the fact that, in any case, no matter what the mental calibre of 
the audience, simplicity always characterizes ideal utterance, that 
nearest the divine. 

The connection between the divine and the simple, is 

shown, Emerson believes, in the language the orator uses when he 

is most deeply moved, when he is raised above the world of sense to 

the world of realities. "I believe it to be true," he says, "that 

when an orator at the bar or in the Senate rises in his thought, he 

descends in his language, — that is, when he rises to any height of 

thought or of passion he comes down to a language level with the 

ear of all his audience. It is the merit of John Brown and of 

Abraham Lincoln — one at Chariest own, one at Gettysburg — in the two 


best specimens of eloquence we have had in this country." Other 
evidence is "the .. charm of the ancient tragedy, and indeed of 

1 £ — — 

uetters . etc.: Eloquence. Letters . etc: Eloquence . 


all the old literature," which is, Emerson declares, "that the 

persons speak simply, — speak as persons who have great good sense 

without knowing it, before yet the reflective habit has become the 

oredominant part of the mind. Our admiration of the antique is 


not admiration of the old, but of the natural." And for Emerson 
nearness to the natural is nearness to the spiritual. The under- 
lying cause of simplicity is the same in the case of either orator 
or writer of tragedy. Intensity in one case, naivete in the other 
equally evince proximity to the divine. 

So far as the audience is concerned, then, Emerson finds 


it possible to "speak with the vulgar, think with the wise." The 
other and major problem which confronts him arises from his attitude 
toward style as it is affected by the distinction between material- 
ism and idealism. There are occasions when he discriminates care- 
fully between the expression of the facts of sense, and spiritual 
truths: the one being uttered by means of the names which common 
sense has given them, the other by these names used symbolically. 
On the other hand, he with even more frequency takes the position 
that the two should be expressed simultaneously; that the ideal 
literature should be interpretable in both ways, satisfying at the 
same time everyday logic and divine Reason. How are these more or 
les3 contradictory requirements to be satisfied? How do they affect 
his choice of language? 

Whether the writer divides the expression of the material 
from that of the ideal or unites them, it should be clear in the 
first place that a change to either attitude will have no great 

1 2 
Essays I; History . Natural History of Intellect : Art 

and Criticism. 

effect on his qualities of style. For even when a line is drawn 
setting off the language of sense from that of spirit, it is not 
altogether certain that the language of one will not at least sug- 
gest the other. The material, as a consequence of its unique func- 
tion as expressor of the ideal, is likely to remind the reader of 
this capacity, even when the writer has no other purpose than to de- 
clare the commonsense fact. Similarly, when the apparent fact is 
used to express the real, the reader — whatever may he the writer's 
intention — is always conscious of the ordinary meaning of the fact 
now used symbolically. It makes little difference whether the union 
of sense and spirit is slightly suggested, without the writer's con- 
nivance; or whether it is deliberately striven for — it will exist 
in either case. And hence the qualities of style which fit one 
conception will fit the other. 

Yftiat now are the qualities of style capable of expressing 
either now the material and now the ideal, or the two in combina- 
tion? On the one hand, fidelity to fact and common sense modera- 
ti on--conveyed by language generally simple in character, and thus 
involving the use of elements drawn from every-day experience, pop- 
ular speech, compression, and understatement. On the other hand, 
elevation and intensity — conveyed by the symbol. It must be, then, 
that the symbol, the ideal expression, will partake of these same 
characteristics which mark the expression of the actual; the ideal, 
too, must be communicated simply: in a style which has as its sub- 
stance ordinary human event and circumstance, which is idiomatic, 
and which is free from the inaccuracies of excess. It should there- 
fore be possible to justify these qualities from either point of 
view; to show that they are satisfactory means of conveying both the 


common and the transcendental. 

We have seen that simplicity, obviously a fit quality of 
the style which aims to express the actual, is by consequence of 
the doctrine of iiach and All readily and effectively symbolic; and 
that it is also close to Nature and Spirit and hence, for this add- 
itional reason, the form of intensest expression. The same double 
purpose is served, likewise, by the elements which go to make up 
this simplicity. The language of experience is plainly the language 
of the hard, material fact; but it becomes, through the expansive 
transformation wrought by the tiach and All theory, an equally desir- 
able means of representing the ideal. The idiomatic, though earthy 
and of the soil and thus accurate to fact, is at the same time 
nearest to Nature and hence emblematic; furthermore, it is accurate 
on high levels because fresh, genuine, and vital. As for compression 
and repression, they are needful even when the language is trans- 
cendental, because the spiritual is for the most part incommuni- 
cable, words frequently only suggesting the thing; and exactness is 
likely to come in such a case from compulsion to use the one symbol 
that fits. Besides, such reticence is itself a cause of pauses that 
are themselves stimulating and suggestive. 

It is now desirable to examine with fullness ilmerson's 
liking for each of these elements which contribute towards a general 
simplicity of vocabulary, and to see the cause of his admiration in 
their double office. 


a. Bx£erlenoe 

Fundamental in making possible the relationship "between 
simplicity and the symbol is the importance of experience. Exper- 
ience the dualist sees as being like Nature in all respects: i. e. , 
two-sided, having both physical and metaphysical value; and, by 
consequence of the canon of Each and All, emblematic, in every action 
which composes it , of the eternal. Hence from experience as much 
as from Mature the writer derives his subject-matter and his 

The situation is not so much that experience is a teacher 

as that experience furnishes the material for teaching. In it the 

writer finds illustrations of the laws of which his intuitions have 

already informed him. It is his duty, having seen these material 

facts with their ideal significance in mind, to utilize them to 

show the parallelism of the actual and the spiritual. Herein is 

Webster praiseworthy, for "he knows what is done in the shops, and 

remembers and uses it in the Senate. He saw it in the shop with 

an eye supertabernal and supersensatorial , or it would not have 

steaded. He is a ship that finds the thing where it is cheap, and 


carries it where it is dear." 

Every circumstance, by consequence of the light shed on 
it through the belief that the One is predicable from the Many, 
epitomizes eternity; and hence any action, of whatever degree or 
kind, may serve the writer as substance. Nothing is too high or 
important for this purpose. "On the writer the choicest influences 
are concentrated, — nothing that does not go to his costly equip- 


Jour . VII, 223. 


ment: a war, an earthquake, revival of letters, the new dis- 
pensation "by Je3us, or by Angels; Heaven, Hell, power, science, 
the He ant , exist to him as colors for his brush." And likewise, 
nothing is too low or inconsequential. "Saadi and AEsop and Cer- 
vantes and Ben Jonson had .. the tinker element and tinker exper- 
ience" which Shakespeare must also have had, "as well as the courtly! 1 
Indeed, the combination, as in everything connected with writing, 

is, as we shall see more fully later, here also essential to genius. 


"A great poet must be of the middle classes." 

Yet certain classes of experience are more significant 
than others. Some have an obvious material character which makes 
their duality of meaning all the more obvious. When the commonplace 
or the low or the base illustrate the ideal, when the writer follows 
the injunction to 

"Give to barrows trays and pans 


Grace and glimmer of romance," 
there is not only a magical charm in the alchemy, but the polarity 
which the transcendentalist loves in style, is conspicuous. Accord- 
ingly when Plato, most notable example of the "balanced soul," "made 
transcendental distinctions, he fortified himself by drawing all his 
illustrations from sources disdained by orators and polite con- 
versers; from mares and puppies; from pitchers and soup-ladles; 

from cooks and criers; the shops of potters, horse-doctors, butchers 


and fishmongers." 

Other experience illustrates eternal truth with peculiar 

success because it is universal. When the circumstance or event 
- g 

Natural History of Intellect u Art and Criticism .. Jour . 
VIII, 294. See^also Jour VIII, 367. Assays I: Art. Repre - 
sentative Men: Plato. 


is common to humanity, it is "both readily and attractively trans- 
ferable to the field of eternal law, where it may also lead rapidly 
to realization of Unity. "If I," writes Emerson, "were professor 
of Rhetoric , --teacher of the art of writing well to young men, — I 
should use Dante for my textbook. Gome hither, youth, and learn how 
the brook that flows at the bottom of your garden, or the farmer who 
ploughs the adjacent field, your father and mother, your debts and 

credits, and your web of habits are the very best basis of poetry, 


and the material which you must work up." Emerson follows his own 


instruction. At the beginning of the essay on Compensation , in 
telling how he came to write the discourse, he says: "The documents 

from which the doctrine is to be drawn, charmed my fancy by 
their endles3 variety, and lay always before me, even in sleep; for 
they are the tools in our hands, the bread in our basket, the trans- 
actions of the 3treet, the farm, and the dwelling-house; greetings, 
relations, debts and credits, the influence of character, the nature 
and endowment of all men." 

Sorrow and calamity are universal experiences whioh are 
exceptionally vital through their depth and poignancy, and may there 
fore, by the very law of compensation which we have just mentioned, 
serve the writer as capital. "The poet cannot spare any grief or 

pain or terror in his experience: he wants every rude stroke that 


has been dealt on his irritable texture." He needs fear and cal- 
amity "to construct the glossary whioh opens the Sanscrit of the 

world." "In calami ty , he finds new materials; as our German poet 

said, 'Some god gave me the power to pain what I suffer.' He draws 

I 2 3 4 

Jour . VIII, 33. Bgaayg I. Jour. V, 450. Ibid. 


his rents from rage and pain. By acting rashly, he buys the power 

of talking wisely. Vexations and a tempest of passion only fill his 

sail; as the good Luther writes, 'When I am angry, I can pray well 

and preaoh well: 1 and, if we knew the genesis of fine strokes of 

eloquence, they might recall the complaisance of Sultan Amurath, who 

struck off some Persian heads , that his physician, Vesalius, might 

see the spasms in the muscles of the neck. His failures are the 


preparation of his victories." "Was not Luther's Bible, Shakspear's 

Hamlet, Paul's letter, a deed as notable and far-reaching as Marengo 

or the dike of Areola. Yet these were written by dint of flagging 

spirits. Sobs of the heart, and dull, waste, unprofitable hours, 

taught the master to write to apprehensive thousands the tragedy of 

the same." 

Emerson himself knew the sweet uses of adversity and of 

"dull, waste, unprofitable hours," "liven in college," he tells us, 

"I was already content to be 'screwed' in the recitation room, if, 

on my return, I could accurately paint the fact in my youthful jour- 

nal." And later, when troubled by the fact that he was a man of 
the spirit rather than a man of the world and hence suffered much 
discomfort in society, he found literary indemnities for his morti- 
fication. He writes in his Journals in self -disdain, "A man of 
letters who goes into fashionable society on their terms and not on 
his owm makes a fool of himself. *.7hy I should be given up to that 

shame so many times after so much considered experience, I cannot 


tell. Heaven has good purposes. . . perchance." Later, he sets down 

one possible recompense. "The poet who is paralysed in the company 

1 2 
Egpresentativg Men : Goethe . Jour . IV, 444-5. 
3 4 
Jour. IV, 437-8. Jour . V, 145-6. 


of the young and beautiful, where he would so gladly shine, re- 
venges himself by satire and taxing that with emptiness and display." 
Such vengeance is, however, scarcely Emersonian. The result of 
diffidence and ill-adjustment for him is rather the serene impartial- 
ity of the essay on Society and Solitude . It should be mentioned, 
too, that there is in Emerson's writing a valuable by-product of 
apparent waste: the poem Days , in which he exculpates himself, by 
the very writing, from the sin of the ill-spent hours that made it 
possible . 

Oertain kinds of experience are thus widely suggestive; 
the ordinary, because of its salient duality; the universal human 
experience because of its relation to universal divine truth; and 
weakness and misfortune because of their keenness and depth. Thus 
Emerson made possible, or rather indispensable, the writer's use 
of common, human, and therefore simple terms; and so far, at least, 
the interdependence of the thoeories of Each and All and of the Sym- 
bol in their relation to Experience not only enables the writer to 
set his thoughts down simply, but makes it highly worth his while 
to do so . 

If literature is to be made up of such ingredients, it 


is obvious that the writer must "pay his tithe" as a member of soc- 
iety by himself working and suffering; and by mingling with those 
to whom life is real and earnest. The cloister, the hermitage, and 
the 3tudy furnish experience of far less significance than that 
gained in the shop, the factory, the field, the street, the home. 

For action complements thought in the writer's equipment. 

1 2 
Jour . V, 525. Mature , etc.: Literary Ethics . 


Without it, thought "can never ripen into truth. The preamble 

of thought, the transition through which it passes from the uncon- 


scious to the oonsoious, is action." without action, too, the writ- 


er's "tuition in the serene and "beautiful laws" and the compositions 

in which he expresses these laws will lack the vitality and reality 

which come only from their embodiment in personal examples. "I do 

not see," says LJmerson, "how any man can afford, for the sake of 

his nerves and his nap, to spare any action in which he can partake. 

It is pearls and rubies to his discourse. Drudgery, calamity, ex- 


asperation, want, are instructors in eloquence and wisdom." 

Underlying this emphasis on experience as the stuff of 
writing is again the pervasive duality. Through the "mutual reac- 
tion of thought and life," through making "thought solid and life 
wise" is brought about the union of sense and spirit essential to 
success in literature. The writer must "know the uttermost secret 
of toil and endurance"; and at the same time he must "never forget 

to worship the immortal divinities who whisper to the poet and 
make him the utterer of melodies that pierce the ear of eternal 
time. .. This twofold goodness, — the drill and the inspiration, -- 

characterizes ever the productions of great masters. The man 
of genius should occupy the whole space between God or pure mind and 
the multitude of uneducated men. He must draw from the infinite 
Reason, on one side; and he must penetrate into the heart and sense 
of the crowd, on the other. From one, he must draw his strength; to 
the other he must owe his aim. The one yokes him to the real; the 
other, to the apparent. At one pole is Reason; at the other, Com- 
mon Sense. If he be defective at either extreme of the scale, his 

1 2 
Nature . etc.: The American Scholar . liature , etc.; Lit- 
erary flthios. ^Nature , etc.; The American Scholar. 


philosophy will seem low and utilitarian, or it will appear too vague 


and indefinite for the uses of life." 

Substance and reinforcement are not all that the writer de- 
rives from the daily details of experience. From them comes also 
his vocabulary. "My garden is my dictionary," Emerson writes, and 
means it literally. He finds interest in the reciprocal influence 
of life on language and language on life. During the Civil War he 
comments in hia Journal: "I am always struck with the speed with 
which every new interest, party, or way of thinking gets its bon - 
mot and name and so adds a new word to language. Thus Higginson, 
and Livermore, Hosraer and the fighting chaplains give necessity and 

vogue to 'muscular Christianity.' The language of the day readily 


suggested to some wit to call hell 'a military necessity.'" This 
interplay of words and deed makes plain that "If it were only for a 
vocabulary, the scholar would he covetous of action. Life is our 
dictionary. Years are well spent in country labors; in town; in the 
insight into trades and manufactures; in frank intercourse with many 
men and women; in science; in art; to the one end of mastering in 
all their facts a language by which to illustrate and embody our 
perceptions. I learn immediately from any speaker how muoh he has 
already lived, through the poverty or the splendor of his speech. 
Life lies behind us as the quarry from whence we get tiles and 
copestones for the masonry of today. This is the way to learn gram- 
mar. Colleges and books only copy the language which the field and 


the work- yard made." 

It is needle S3 to point out that a vocabulary so vital 

will be simple and understandable. But the connection between ex- 

I 2 3 

Uature . etc.: Literary ath ic 3 . Jour . X, 164. Nature, 
etc.: The American Scholar. 


perience and simplicity in language and illustration does not end 
here. It is strengthened by the interrelationship "between the Zach 
and All theory, Solf-Belianoe , and Emerson's methods of writing. 
In the first place, the Each and All theory assures the writer that 
the most oommon thoughls, objects, and actions are miniature express- 
ions of Spirit. In the second place, Celf-Keliance directs that the 
individual should trust and utilize what the Oversoul indicates to 
him is peculiarly his to think:, to remember, and to say. In the 
third place, the two canons cooperate to effect the conviction that 
personal, individual, original experience, thoughts, memories, and 
symbols conceal, though under the most unpromising exterior, a far- 
reach ins- significance that makes them treasurable and worthy of ex- 
pression. And in the fourth place, here is the justification of 
Emerson's practice of setting down in his journals the golden 
thought, experience, or symbol of the moment. For he did so in the 
assurance that the infinite relationship of every particle would 
3ome day make clear the right literary use of all these divinely 
inspired fragments. 

In the detailed consideration that follows, it will be 
seen that the theories of Self -Eeliance and ilach and All meet and 
sometimes indistinguishably merge with one another. To see their 
relationship to one another as it affects the use of personal mat- 
erials, it is perhaps best to begin by remembering that self-re- 
liance is not egotism. It does not encourage freakish, cranky writ- 
ing, or the literature which rejoices in wilful isolation of opinion. 
It is rather based on the confidence that the divine voice may be 
heard more or less distinctly by every man, and that as a result 
every man is a sharer in inspiration and in the knowledge of univer- 


sal truths. With this is joined, so far as our present subject is 
concerned , the fact that there are many experiences which are com- 
mon to humanity. If therefore any man's experience seems to him. 
significant of universal truths, self-reliance gives him reason to 
believe that the account of his actions so looked at will suit every- 
body's case and hence be interesting to all. When Bmerson writes: 


"What pleases me will please many," he means nothing more offensively 

personal than: What pleases the universal man in me will please the 

universal man in others. Thus in regard to writing, self-reliance, 

by certifying our universality, enables us to "discover how rich we 

are. Our history, we are sure, is quite tame: we have nothing to 

write, nothing to infer. But our wiser years still run back to the 

despised recollections of childhood, and always we are fishing up 

3ome wonderful article out of that pond; until by and by we bep-in to 

suspect that the biography of the one foolish person we know is, in 

reality, nothing less than the miniature paraphrase of the hundred 


volumes of the Universal History." 

A most interesting passage from the Journals will serve 
not only to make clear the application of this principle to litera- 
ture, but will illustrate ISraerson's practical use of it in his own 
writing. "I please myself with getting my nail-box set in the snug- 
gest corner of the barn-chamber and well-filled with nails, and gim- 
let, pincers, screw-driver and chisel. Herein I find an old joy of 
youth, of childhood, which perhaps all domestic children share, — the 
catlike love of garrets, barns and corn-chambers , and of the con- 
veniences of long housekeeping. It is quite genuine. T.Tien it occurs 

1 2 
Jour . IV, 212. Assays I: Intellect . 

— — - -122- 

to-day, I ask, Have others the same? Once I should not have thought 

of suoh a question. What I loved, I supposed all children loved 

and knew, and therefore I did not name them. We were at accord. 

But muoh conversation, much comparison, apprises us of differences. 

The first effect of this new learning is to incline us to hold our 

tastes. As they differ, we must be wrong. Afterwards some person 

comes and wins e'clat by simply describing this old but concealed 

fancy of ours. Then we immediately learn to value all the parts of 

our nature, to rely on them as self -authorized and that to publish 

them is to olease others. So now the nail-box figures for its value 


in my Journal." And one likes to note that the sentences in the 

above regarding the nail-box and the "catlike love of garrets" find 


their proper eventual place in the essay on Prudence. 

Self-reliance, then, asserts that the individual's liking, 
through his share in universality, is everybody's liking. This 
dictum easily and imperceptibly aligns itself with the theory of 
Each and All. For the attractiveness of the record of anybody's 
experience proceeds not only from the fact that it is everybody's 
experience, but from the fact that it is seen in the light of general 
law; that a strong classifying thought has been exerted upon it and 
has made use of it for illustration or symbol. 

The psychological process is this: "The new deed is yet a 
part of life , --remains for a time immersed in our unconscious life. 
In some contemplative hour it detache3 itself from the life like a 
ripe fruit, to become a thought of the mind. Instantly it is raised, 
transfigured; the corruptible has put on incorruption. Henceforth 


it is an object of beauty, however base its origin and neighborhood." 
- g 3 

Jour . IV, 233-4. assays I. Mature , etc.: The American 

Scholar . 


And when it is expressed in literature, the enhanced value 
remains. "Sach truth that a writer acquiries is a lantern which he 
turns fall on what facts and thoughts lay already in his mind, and 
behold, all the mats and rubbish which had littered his garret be- 
come precious, ivery trivial fact in his private biography becomes 

an illustration of this new principle, revisits the day, and delights 


all men by its piquancy and new charm." Thus "Goethe's account of 
the feelings of a bridgegroom. The subjective is made objective. 
That which he had only lived , and not thought and not valued, is now 
seen to have the greatest beauty as picture; and as we value a Dutch 
painting of a kitchen, or a frolic of blackguards, or a beggar catch- 
ing a flea, when the scene itself we should avoid, so we see worth 

in things we had slighted these many years. A making it a subject 


of thought , the glance of the Intellect raises it." 

Though the ordinary man cherishes the facts of his individ- 
ual experience, he thinks them trivial and unworthy of record. He 
has but vaguely and unconsciously apprehended the general law to 
which they relate. When the great writer records such facts, "Men 
say, TiThere did he get this? and think there v/as something divine in 

his life. But no; they have myriads of facts just as good, would 


they only get a lamp to ransack their attioa withal." Yet "we are 

all wise. The difference between persons is not in wisdom but in 

art. I knew, in an academical club, a person who always deferred 

to me; who, seeing my whim for writing, fancied that my experiences 

had somewhat superior; whilst I saw that his experiences were as 

good as mine. Give them to me and I would make the same use of them. 

1 2 3 

iSs says I: Intellect . Jour . IV, 99. Assays I: Intellect. 


He held the old; he holds the new; I had the habit of tacking to- 
gether the old and the new which he did not use to exercise. This 
may hold in the great examples. Perhaps, if we should meet Shaks- 
peare we should not he conscious of any steep inferiority; no, but 

of a great equality, — only that he possessed a strange skill of using, 


of classifying hi3 faots, which we lacked." 

It now becomes evident not only that the genius is charac- 
terized (as we saw in the chapter on the Symbol) by his power 
of metonomy and by the accompanying perception of identity in var- 
iety, but that he has extraordinary ability to see universality in 
the facts of his private experience. It is apparent, too, that he 
has confidence, which the usual writer lacKs, to use this ability. 

"Dante's uraise," Emerson says, "is that he dared to write his auto- 


biography in colossal cipher, or into universality." The genius has 
self-reliance. Again this doctrine meets and coalesces with that 
of ^ach and All. 

This particular gift of genius Emerson calls "detachment 

by illumination." He exclaims: "How much self-reliance it implies to 

write a true description of anything, for example, Word sworth 1 s 

picture of seating; that leaning back on your heels and stopping in 

mid-career. So simple a fact no common man v/ould have trusted him- 


self to detach as a fact." 

Self-reliance alone makes original it y possible , and origin- 
ality i3 an inevitable constituent of genius. Originality, of 

course, implies newness; and "llovelty in the means by which we arrive 


at the old universal ends is the test of the highest power." The 

_ g 2 

^ssuys I: Int elleot . .assays I: The Poet . Jour . IX, 309. 
4 5 
Jour. IV, 398. Natural History of Intellect : Inspiration . 


oonnection between genius and the utilization of one's own experience 
as substance for writing now "becomes plain, tfor nothing i s so like- 
ly to be productive of novelty as the value a man attaches to the 
facts of his private experience. Hence confidence in the literary 
value of such actions and in the individual impressions made "by 
those actions is a mark of genius. 

The necessary corrective of the whim and conceit to which 

this conception misht give rise is supplied in the fact that by self- 


reliance iHmerson means "reliance on God," not egotism. Self-reliance 
is a faith that whatever the Spirit indicates to the individual as 
important, is suoh because of the divine source of the intimation. 
If, then, the intuitions find good in the facts of the writer's ex- 
perience, so does he perforce. Originality, therefore, is an obed- 
ience to the dictates of the soul; and if the soul haloes some events 
in one's life, those become thereby worthy of literary use. 

That caprice and vainglory play no part in self-reliance 
as it regards the literary conversion of the personal is evident in 
the perfect naturalness of the process by v/hich certain events and 
memories acquire their strange spiritual significance. "Observe the 
impossibility of antedating this act," Sraerson directs us. "In its 
grub state" the deed "cannot fly, it cannot shine, it is a dull 

grub. But suddenly, 7/ithout observation, the selfsame thing unfurls 


beautiful wings, and is an angel of wisdom." "My will," says Emer- 
son, "never gave the images in my mind the rank they now take. The 
regular course of studies, the years of academical and professional 

education, have not yielded me better fact3 than some idle books 


under the bench at the Latin School." 


2 ^iscell;:-nie3 : The Fu?itivegSlave Law — .uectur e at L T ew York . 

Mature . etc.: The American Scholar . Assays I: Spiritual Law 3 . 


Originality, therefore, grows out of the natural, unana- 
lyzed intimations of Spirit. In the writer's peculiar behalf, these 
intimations invest certain parts of his own experience with a uni- 
versal significance. Trusting in their sacredness, he has self- 
r el lance to find here the matter of his writing. He looks at the 
same time into his heart and into his experience, and writes. "Those 
facts, words, persons, which dwell in" the writer's "memory without 
his being able to say why, remain because they have a relation to 
him not less real for being as yet unapprehended. They are symbols 
of value to him as they can interpret parts of his consciousness 
which he would vainly seek words for in the conventional images of 
books and other minds, what attracts my attention shall have it, 
as I will go to the man who knocks at my door, whilst a thousand per- 
sons as worthy go by it, to whom I give no regard. It is enough 
that these particulars speak to me. A few anecdotes, a few traits 
of character, manners, face, a few incidents, have an emphasl3 in 
your memory out of all proportion to their apparent significance if 
you measure them by the ordinary standards. They relate to your 
gift. Let them have their weight, and do not reject them and cast 
about for illustration and facts more usual in literature. Y/hat 

your heart thinks great, is great. The soul's emphasis is always 


Thus an unseen hand touches particular memories with a 

special significance. But God helps those who help themselves, and 

nothing forbids the writer to stretch out his own hand to meet the 

unseen. Without perceiving his eventual use of a fact, he is assured 

by self-reliance that any part of his experience may become im- 

Bfsayg I: Spiritual Laws. 


portant, and so he records it if only because it is his. And even 
if this fact is not of the elect, he cannot go wrong in expressing 
it. For here he has to support him the cooperation of the Each and 
All theory, assuring him of the symbolic character of every fact how- 
ever small. 

Therefore when the writer "sees some figure in an express- 
ive attitude and surroundings without hesitating because it is 

a mere purposeless fragment, he paints out that figure with what 


skill and energy he has." Emerson tells us, too, that this holds of 

his own practice, "Each new fact I look upon, as this steaming of 

hot air from the fields upward, is a new word that I learn and hive, 

well assured that a use for it will come presently, as the boy learns 


with good hope his Latin vocabulary." "I am a matchmaker," he de- 
clares in another passage, "and delight in nothing more than in find- 
ing the husband or mate of the trivial fact I have long carried 
in my memory (unable to give any reason for the emphasis I gave it) 

until now, suddenly, it shows itself as the true symbol or express- 


ion of 3ome abstraction." He tells us concerning his voyage to Eng- 
land: "Sometimes a memorable fact turns up, which you have long had 


a vacant niche for, and seize with the joy of a collector." And he 
finds in old age the solace that "the lonely thought, which seemed 
ao wise, yet half-wise, half-thought , because it cast no light abroad, 
is suddenly matched in our mind by its twin, by its sequence, or 
next related analogv, which gives it instantly radiating power, and 


justifies the superstitious instinct with which we have hoarded it." 
It now becomes clear how Emerson's method of keeping a 

12 3 4 

Jour . IX, 309. Jour . V, 418-9. Jour . IX, 272-3. English 


Traits : Voyage t c England . Society and Solitude : Old Age . 


journal accords with hi3 doctrines of 3ach and All and Self-Keliance . 
He believes that the attractiveness of personal experience when made 
a subject of thought, when shown in its universal relations, "admon- 
ishes us instantly of the worth of the present moment. It apprizes 
us of our wealth, for if that hour and object be so valuable, why 

not every hour and event in our life, if passed through the same 

process?" Acting in concurrence with this conviction, he gathers in 
his journals anecdotes, proverbs, data of various kinds, and makes 
entries of the passing thought, emotion, or symbol — all in the con- 
fidence that they may some day find their proper place and relation. 
So he takes full advantage of the infinite possibility of expansion 
which exists in every moment's experience. So, too, he need not rest 
content with pressing favorite blossoms in his memory, but may cull 
them in their first bloom and keep them fresh against the day when 
they are to be entwined in a garland of such flowers. 

That this interaction of the dicta of Self-Keliance and 
Each and All is a force which works for simplicity in style is easily 
seen. For it is trivialities, the joys and sorrov/s of childhood and 
youth, the "most seemingly inadequate and msan occasions" which il- 
lustrate to the individual his theories of life and his visions of 

beiuty: "the fear of boys, and dogs, and ferules, the love of little 


maids and berries," "hearing an unwashed boy spell or cipher in his 
class, or seeing the blush upon the cheek of a schoolgirl, or watch- 
ing the transmission of a candlelight through his closed fingers, 

or listening long to the sound made by tinkling a glas3 tumbler or 


touching the key of a piano." 

Another cause contributing to simplicity in diction is the 

1 2 3 

Jour . IV, 99. Mature , etc.: The American Scholar . Jour . 

Ill, 228-9. 


indiff erency of the subject. Just as any kind of experience may 
furnish examples and symbols for the details of writing, so the whole 
composition may be written on any topic. Again the theory of Each 
and All is responsible. It makes every subject pertinent. Enabling 
utilization of the small, the common, the domestic, the commercial, 
the near in time and place, it is a great influence tending to sim- 
plicity in style. 

Size has nothing to do with the availability of a subject. 
"I say to Lidian that in composition the What is of no importance 

compared with the How. The most tedious of all discourses are on 


the subject of the Supreme Being." "The elasticity of the present 

object .. makes all the magnitudes and magnates unnecessary. This 

is what we mean when we say your subject is absolutely indifferent. 

You need not write the History of the World, nor the Fall of Man, 

nor King Arthur, nor Iliad, nor Christianity; but write of hay, or 

of cattle shov/s, or trade 3ales, or of a ship, or of Ellen, or Al- 

cott, or of a couple of schoolboys, if only you can be the fanatic 

of your subject, and find a fibre reaching from it to the core of 

your heart, so that all your affection and all your thought can 

freely play. " 

The everyday domestic and business affairs are as good 
topics as any. "The artist," Emerson says, "is very well convinced 
that the great moments of life are those in which his own house, his 
own body, the tritest and nearest ways and words and things have 
been illuminated into prophets and teachers. What else is it to be 
a poet? What are his garland and singing-robes? 7/hat but a sensi- 
bility so keen that the scent of an elder-blow, or the timber-yard 

- - 

Jour. IV, 211. Jour. IX, 207. 


and corporation-works of a nest of pismires is event enough for 
him, — all emblems and personal appeals to him. There is no sub- 

ject that does not belong to him, — politics, economy, manufactures 
and stock-brokerage, as much as sunsets and souls; only, these things, 

placed in their true order, are poetry; displaced , or put in kitchen 


order, they are unpoetic." "Herrick's merit lies in his power of 

glorifying common and base objects in his perfect verse. He pushes 

this privilege of the poet very far, in the wantonness of his power. 

He delights to show the iiluse not nice or squeamish, but treading with 

firm and elastic step in sordid places, taking no more pollution 

than the sunbeam, which shines alike on the carrion and on the vio- 

let." "He found his subject where he stood, between his feet, in 

his house, pantry, barn, poultry yard, in his village, neighbors' 


gossip and scandal." 

Hence travel is unnecessary for the writer, ifimerson con- 
cedes that the authors "who have written out their vein" are "moved 
by a commendable prudence" when they "sail for Greece or Palestine, 

follow the trapper into the prairie, or ramble round Algiers, to re- 


plenish their merchantable stock." But in general he considers 

travelling "Boswellism. " "Illustrate, eternize your own woodhouse," 

he urges. "It is much cheaper, and possible to any resolute think- 

er." "Given the insight" the writer "will find as many beauties and 

strokes of genius close by him as Bante or Shakspeare beheld. It 

was in a cold moor farm, in a dingy country inn, that Burns found 


his fancy so sprightly. "'Donde hai tu pigliato tante coglionieri? 1 
And where did you pick up all this heap of fripperies, Llesser Lodo- 

1 2 
x.ett er s , etc.: Poetry and Imaginati on . uemoir II, 721. 
3 4 
L'atural ?listory ofp Intellect : Art andA Criticism. Mature , etc. : The 


vico Ariosto? said the duke to the poet. 'Here in your court, your 


Highness,' he replied." 

As remoteness in place is unnecessary and in general un- 
desirable in a subject, so is remoteness in time. Emerson advises 
against writing "modern antiques like Land or 's Pericles, or Goethe's 
Iphigenia . .. They are paste jewels." They are likely to he un- 
natural and to that extent insincere. He does admit that "You may 
well take an ancient subject where the form is incidental merely, 

li/ce Shakspeare's plays, and the treatment and dialogue is simple, 


and most modern." "I know," he grants, "there is entertainment and 
room for talent in the artist's selection of ancient or remote sub- 
jects; as when the poet goes to India, or to Home, or Persia, for 

his fable." But he gives higher praise to Goethe, who, by virtue 

of his "power to unite the detached atoms again by their own law, 

has clothed our modern existence with poetry. Amid littleness and 

detail, he detected the Genius of life, the old cunning Proteus, 

nestling close beside us, and showed that the dulness and prose we 

ascribe to the age was only another of his masks; — 

'His very flight is presence in disguise:' 

— that he had put off a gay uniform for a fatigue dress, and was not 

a whit less vivacious or rich in Liverpool or the Hague than once in 


Home or Antioch." liven "the poor Pickwick stuff", as Emerson (sails 

it, "teaches this, that prose and parlors and shops an-" city win- 

, dows, the tradesman's dinner, and 3Uch matters, are as good materials 


in a skilful hand for interest and art a3 palaces and revolutions." 
And Garlyle is commendable for a like reason, having given, in hi 3 

1 2 3 4 

Jour . VI, 110. Jour . VI, 400. Jour . VI, 400. setters , 

5 6 
etc. : Poetry and I magi nation , representative ...en : Goethe . English 
Traits , 383-4. 


books , "the first d omest ioat ion of the modern system, with its in- 


finity of details, into style." 

If, then, "the test or measure of poetic genius is the 
power to read the poetry of affairs, — to fuse the circumstance of 
to-day," if nearness in time and plaoe is to be sought, it is ob- 
vious that the American writer should ohoose the contemporary Ameri- 
can subject, should "convert the vivid energies acting at this hour 


in Hew York: and Chicago and San Francisco into universal symbols." 
"Of all absurdities," ilmerson exclaims, "this of some foreigner pro- 
posing to take away my rhetoric and substitute his own, and amuse me 
with pelican and stork, instead of thrush and robin; palmtrees and 

shittim-wood , instead of sassafras and hickorv, — seems the most 

needless." iimerson has great faith in this country as a literary 

field, but did not believe it had been worked deeply. He urged this 

on Carlyle as a reason for taking up residence here. "Here are rich 

materials for the philosopher and poet, and what is more to your 

purpose as an artist. .. we have had in these parts no one philos- 


opher or poet to put a sickle to the prairie wheat** And in The 

Poet he says: "w"e have had yet no genius in America, with tyrannous 

eye, which knew the value of our incomparable materials, and saw, 

in the barbarism and materialism of the times, another carnival of 

the same gods he so much admires in Homer; then in the kiddle ^ge ; 

then in Calvinism. Banks and tariffs, the newspaper and caucus, 

Methodism and Unitar ianism, are flat and dull to dull people, but 

re3t on the same foundations of wonder as the town of Troy and the 

temple at Delphi, and are as swiftly passing away. Our logrolling, 

Natural Hi story of Intellect : Papers from the Mai , Past 
and Present . '- x.etterr, , etc. : Poetry and Imaginat ion . ° It e p r e s e n t a t i v e 
ken : Cwedenborg" ! .^.Qorr . 1 , 1 20 . 


our stumps and their politics, our fisheries, our Kegroes and 

Indians, our boats .., the northern trade, the southern planting, 

the western clearing, Oregon and Texas, are yet unsung. Yet America 

is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, 


and it will not wait long for metres." 

To the writer nothing human i3 alien. Good to report are 
whatsoever things that are homely and near at hand, whatsoever things 
that are personal, whatsoever things that are common to mankind. In 
other words, we may almost say: whatsoever things that are express- 
ible simply. But the stress laid on the importance of daily bread 
as the writer's food should not cause f orgetfulness of the trans- 
sub3tantiation brought about by his holy use of it. It provides a 
means of communing with the divine. Everyday experience derives its 
availability from its symbolic, its ideal value. If the commonplace 
has not been enhanced by a change to something rich and strange, if 
it has not been beautified by the magic wrought by the universal law 
which has pov/er over it, it lacks its chief charm and merit. 

Moreover, it is unsatisfactory from the artistic as well 
as the transcendental point of view. The result of failure to see 
the private experience in a universal light Smerson thus describes: 
"livery one would be poet if his intellectual digestion were perfect; 
if the grass and carrots passed through all the four stomachs, and 
became pure milk. But in Grumplehorn' s cream, there is sometimes 
a tang of turnip; and in the gay pictures of the orator, a reminder 
now and then of autobiography, — staring eyes of duns, or school- 
masters, or cousins, or critics, who have tormented him, far on this 


side of heaven." 

1 2 
Assays II: The Poet. Jour. IX, 547. 


The exceptional power of convertibility into ideal ex- 
pression which ordinary events and circumstances possess has two 
important effects: it maizes humanity an inestimable constituent of 
the writer's character; and it accords with the democratization of 
literature . 

The writer who gathers his material and chooses his topics 
from the everyday life around him must have in himself and in his 
writing the quality of humanity: the ability to sympathize with and 
interpret the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the members of all 
classes of society. Scott, for example, "by nature, by his reading 
and taste an aristocrat, in a time and country which easily gave 
him that bias .. had the virtues and graces of that class", but 
"not less his eminent humanity delighted in the sense and virtue and 
wit of the common people. In his own household and neighbors he 
found characters and pets of humble cla3S, with whom he established 
the best relation, --small farmers and tradesmen, shepherds, fisher- 
men, gypsie3, peasant-girls, crones, --and came with these into real 
ties of mutual help and goodwill. From these originals he drew so 
genially his Jeanie Deans, his Mnmonts and ifidie Ochiltrees, Caleb 
Balderstones and Fairs ervices, Guddie Headriggs, Dominies, Lleg Merri 
lies and Jenny Rintherouts, full of life and reality; making these, 
too, the pivots on which the plots of his stories turn; and meantime 
without one word of brag of this discernment , --nay , this extreme 

sympathy reaching down to every beggar and beggar's dog, and horse 

and cow." Plutarch has the same quality. "ilothing touches man but 
he feels to be his .. A man of society, of affairs; upright, pract- 
ical; a good son, husband, father, and friend , --he has a taste for 
common life, and knows the court, the camp and the judgment-hall, 

^Lili3cellanie3: V/alter Scott. 


but also the forge, farm, kitchen and cellar, and every utensil 

and use . " 

For the conversion of every kind of human element into 

writine:, duality of vision is necessary, as always. The writer "must 


have a sensuous eye, hut an intellectual co-perception." He must 
go "behind the coat to the character of the man, and find there uni- 
versality, lie must regard every human action as significant of the 
spirit which animated it. In mankind, as in Nature, he must view 
outer semblances as symbolic of inner realities. 

limerson found the preaching of his day deficient in both 
respects. "I wish," he says, "to find in my preacher that power to 
illuminate and warm and purify .. and .. that power to clothe 

every secret and abstract thought in its corresponding material 

symbol." But his wishes were not gratified. Hot only did the 
3ilvinist and even the Unitarian hold by outworn formulas, by trad- 
itions and dogmas rather than truth, but they illustrated them either 
not at all or by second-hand reference to Biblical stories and para- 
bles. In hi3 Journals iSmerson frequently gives vent to his dissatis- 
faction and irritation at going to church and having" experiences 
like that described in the Divinity College Address : "A snow-storm 
was falling around us. The snow-3torrn was real, the preacher merely 
spectral, and the eye felt the 3ad contrast in looking at him, and 
then out of the window behind him into the beautiful meteor of the 
snow. He had lived in vain. He had no one word intimating that he 
had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or 
cheated, or chagrined. .. Hot one fact in all his experience had 

I 2 3 4 

xiootur es , etc . : Ilutarch . Ibid. Jour . X, 214. nature , 

et c . 


he yet imported into his doctrine." Bitterly Emerson declares: 
"The clergy are the etiquette or Chinese Empire of our American Soc- 
iety. They are here that we may not be fed and bedded and die ana 
be buried as dogs, but, in the want of dignity, we may be treated 
to a sufficiency of parade and gentle gradations of salutation at 
coming and parting. If anybody dies and grieves us to the heart, 
so that the people might be moved to tears by a hearty word , the 
minister shuts his lips and preaches on the miracles, or the parables, 
or Solomon's Temple, because the family have not had up the ir not g ; 

if any new outrage on law or any pregnant event fills the mind of 


people with queries and omens, the pulpit is dumb." 

The preacher cannot deliver successful sermons unless he 
considers the individuals in his audience; unless his humanity is 
broad enough to make him see the necessity of suiting his material 
to their needs. When Emerson was a young divinity student, he gave 
himself this advice: "Take care, take care that your sermon is not 


a recitation; that it is a sermon to Mr. A. and Mr. B. and Mr. C." 
In this regard, Emerson found much to admire in the preaching of 
Edward Taylor, the Methodist minister whose fame spread far from the 
sailors' mission he conducted in Boston. "How can he," Emerson ex- 
claims, "transform all those whiskered, shaggy, untrim tarpaulins 

into sons of lie-ht and hope, by seeing the man within the sailor, 


seeing them to be sons, lovers, brothers, husbands." 

If the preacher, then, remembers that he is speaking to 

human beings, that his office is to reform and relieve, he v/ill avoid 

empty generalities. "At church today," Emerson records, "I felt 

how unequal is this match of words against things. Cease, thou 

1 £ 3 

Jour . VI, 423-4. Society and Solitude , 371-2. Jour . 

IV, 155-6. 



unauthorized talker, to prate of consolation, and resignation, and 

spiritual Joys, in neat and balanced sentences. For I know these 

men below. .. There is iir. T--, the shoemaker, whose daughter has 

gone mad, and he is looking up through his spectacles to hear what 

you can offer for his case. Here is my friend, whose scholars are 

all leaving him, and he knows not what to turn his hand to, next. 

Here is my wife, who has come to church in hope of being soothed and 

strengthened after being wounded by the sharp tongue of a slut in her 

house. Here is the stage driver who has the jaundice, and cannot get 

well. Here is B. , who failed last week, and he is looking up. 


speak things, then, or hold thy tongue." 

When the preacher does speak "things", the hearer, even if 
his own particular case is not touched on, yet recognizes the uni- 
versality of the teaching. "Everything is my cousin, and when he 
speaks things, I immediately feel he is touching some of ray relations, 

and I am uneasy, but whilst he deals in words I can slumber and 

sleep. " 

From what source is the preacher to receive the insight 

and the material which will give his sermons human comprehension and 

sympathy? From his own life. The lesson should be impressed on a 

young man just entering the ministry "that a people oan well afford 

to settle large incomes on a man, that he may marry, buy, and sell, 

and administer his own good, if the practical lesson that he thus 

learns he can translate into general terms and yield them its poetry 


from week to week." Concerning his great-grandfather, Rev. Joseph 

Emerson, Emerson tells us that in his "old diary, .. ending in the 

year 1736, one easily sees the useful egotism of our old Puritan 

1 2 3 

Jour. V, 200-1. Jour. IV, 277. Jour . IV, 232-3. 


clergy. The minister experienced life for his flock. He gave 
prominence to all his economy and history for the benefit of the 
parish. His cow and horse and pig did duty next Sunday in the pul- 
pit. All his haps are providences. If he keeps school, marries, 
begets children, if his house burns, if his children have the measles, 
if he is thrown from his horse, if he buys a negro, and Dinah mis- 
behaves, if he buys or sells his chaise — all his adventures are 
fumigated with prayer and praise — he improves next Sunday the new- 
circumstance , --and the willing flock are contented with this conse- 
cration of one man's adventures for the benefit of them all, inas- 
much as that one is on the right level and therefore a fair repre- 

sentative . " 

In the prayers and sermons of another relative, his uncle, 

Hev. Samuel Hipley, iimerson found a like merit, ilven though he saw 


that Dr. Ripley idealized nothing and was hidebound by tradition, 

LImerson recognized also that his contact with the practicalities of 

life gave his words a loving-kindness impossible to the utterances 

of the more learned and equally dogmatic city clergy, "the Boston 


preachers of proprietie3--the fair house of Seem." Such country 

preachers, through "their inevitable acquaintance with the outer 

nature of man, and with his strict dependence on sun and rain and 

wind and forest ,--v;ood , worm, co?/ and bird, get an education in the 


Homeric simplicity" which makes their words affectingly human. The 
result of such preaching, too, depends on the humanity of its hear- 
ers. "Sunday," note3 iimerson "I could not help remarking .. how 
much humanity was in the preaching of my p:ood uncle. .. The rough 
farmers had their hands at their eyes repeatedly. But the old hard- 

1 g 3 4 

Jour . IV, 338-9. Jour . IV, 234. Jour . Ill, 556. Jour . 

Ill, 556. 


ened sinners, the arid, educated men, ministers and others, were dry 

as stones." In spite of shortcomings, Dr. Ripley was a case in point 

of the "true preacher", who, Emerson says, "can he known hy this, 

that he deals, out to the people his life, --life passed through the 


fire of thought." 

Humanity (with an accompanying "Homeric simplicity") are 

necessary to the preacher--to every user of words, for "the capital 

secret of his profession" is to see "the symbolical character of 

3 4 
life" and "to convert life into truth." This correspondence between 

literature and life makes the democratization of literature inevit- 
able. When the people control the politics, they also control the 
books. Democracy has brought a new audience, and With it new topics. 
"The decline of the privileged orders, all over the world; the ad- 
vance of the Third Estate; the transformation of the laborer into 
reader and writer has compelled the learned and the thinkers to ad- 
dress them. Chiefly in this country, the common school has added 

two or three audiences: once, we had only the boxes; now, the galler- 


ies and the pit." 

'.Vith these additions has come a change in subject-matter. 
Few now are so poor as to do reverence to the name of king. Royalty 
has lost its glamour, wealth its beauty. "What is good that is said 
or written now lies nearer to men's bosoms than of old. '.That is good 
goes now to all. .. Prester John no more shall be heard of. Tamer- 
lane and the Buccaneers vanish before Texas, Oregon territory, the 
Reform Bill, the abolition of slavery and of capital punishment, 
questions of education, and the reading of Reviews; and in these all 
men take part. The human race have got possession, and it is all 

4 Jour . IV, 379. gaturg , etc.: Address . Jour. IV, 232. 

Uature , etc. : Address . 5 llatural History of Intellect : Art and Crit - 


questions that pertain to their interest, outward or inward, that 

are now discussed, and many words leap out alive from bar-rooms, 

Lyceums, Committee Rooms, that esoape out of doors and fill the world 


with their thunder." 

How is there room for a poet like Burns, "the poet," 
Emerson calls him, "of the poor, anxious, cheerful working humanity," 
"of gray hodden and the guernsey coat and the blouse. He has given 
voice to all the experiences of common life; he has endeared the 
farm-house and cottage, patches and poverty, beans and barley; ale, 
the poor man's wine; hardhip; the fear of debt; the dear society of 
weans and wife, of brothers and sisters, proud of each other, know- 
ing so few and finding amends for want and obscurity in books and 
thoughts. What a love of nature, and, shall I say it? of middle- 
class nature. Not like Goethe, in the stars, or like Byron, in the 
ocean, or Moore, in the luxurious East, but in the homely landscape 
which the poor see around them, --bleak leagues of pasture and stubble, 

ice and sleet and rain and snow-choked brooks; bird3, hares, field- 


mice, thistles and heather, which he daily knew." 

"God said, I am tired of kings," 
rings out Emerson's Boston Hymn , in defiance to the oppressors of the 
poor and the slave-owners in particular. Emerson's individualism 
makes him an ardent democrat. He sees in each man divine possibili- 
ties, and in popular institutions spiritual significance. The "fish- 
ers and choppers and ploughmen" who constitute the American state 

are fit emblems for its literature. Thu3 the New Hampshire or Ver- 


mont boy who " teams it. farms it, p e 6 fl le 3" is Emerson's model of 

12 3 
Jour . IV, 90-5. Lliscellanie3 : Robert Bur ns . Essays I; 

Self -Reliance . 


self-relianoe . He finds illustrations of the law of Prudence equal - 


ly in the maxims of State Street and the haymaker. Our Congress 


and other public assemblies serve as tests of character. The friend- 
liness of American laws and customs towards women's rights is a sign 

of chivalry. He finds an instance of the right kind of power in the 

"rough-riders .--legislators in shirt-sleeves, — Hoosier, Sucker, Wolv- 


erine, Badger," for "the instinct of the people is right." 

To have and to hold experience: this is the desire of the 
writer who wishes a style which is an amalgam of gold and the "baser 
metals. This experience is not to he of an out-of-the-way character 
gained in out-of-the-way places. Divinity and universality dwell 
everywhere, "but most significantly here and now in the most familiar 
surroundings. Hence the ideal style is the simple style; the simple 
language which is descriptive of simple things is that in which the 
material and the ideal best come together. The writer, accordingly, 
sees, cherishes, and shows the beauty and the poetry in the ordinary 
events of hi3 own life and his neighbor's. This entails a community 
of thought and feeling and action which stirs into his writings that 
universal nutriment, the milk of human kindness. This same unanimity, 
furthermore, brings his writings into line with the worldwide move- 
ment toward democracy in literature and life. 

The duality of the simple experience and its connection 
with the Symbol and the Each and All theory, together with some re- 
ference to the desirability of humanity and democracy as elements in 

literature, appear eloquently in a paragraph from Th e American Schol - 

ar, which v/ill serve to collect and summarize these points; "The 

I 2 3 

Assays X: Prudence . Assays II: Character . Assays II: 

4 5 
Manners . Conduct of Life : Power . Hature, etc. 


literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy 
of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the 
tine. It is a great stride. It is a sign, — is it not? of new vigor 
when the extremities are made active, when currents of warm life run 
into the hands and the feet. I ask not for the great, the remote, 
the romantic; what is doing in Italy or Arabia; what is Greek art, 
or Provencal minstrelsy; I embrace the common, I explore and sit at 
the feet of the familiar, the low. Give me insight into to-day, and 
you may have the antique and future worlds, 'what would we really 
know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; 
the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the 
eye; the form and the gait of the body; — show me the ultimate reason 
of these matters; show me the sublime presence of the highest spirit 
ual cause lurking, as always it does lurk, in these suburbs and ex- 
tremities of nature; let me see every trifle bristling with the* 
polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; and the shop, 
the plough, and the ledger referred to the like cause by which light 
undulates and poets sing." 


b. Idiom 

The eternal singer of the everyday must have exceptional 
command of his middle register. For that most of his songs are 
written; and it is because of his assurance there that he succeeds 
with those that do require passing from chest- tones to head- tones. 
The writer who usually mingles in his sentences the actual and the 
ideal and only occasionally emphasizes their differences must write 
with certainty the medial style in which the two are joined if he 
is to diverge from it to one or the other extremity. He must be 
able, like Shakapeare, to maintain the "level tone which is the 
tone of high and low alike, and most widely understoo d. M ^ The key- 
note of such a style is of course simplicity. The writer must have 
w the perfect, plain style" with which Emerson credits Eerrick, 

"from which he can soar to a fine, lyric delicacy, cr descend to 


coarsest sarcasm, without losing his firm footing," 

Equivalent to a "perfect, plain style" is for Emerson 
"a noble idiomatic English." His liking for the idiomatic is not 
to be dissociated from his fondness for simple expression. To idiom, 
indeed, he attributes the same medial quality which is character- 
istic of simplicity in general. Idiom, too, is a plateau of general- 
ly equal elevation, though it may be interrupted by mountains or 
even volcanoes that rise above it, or by canyons that extend far 
below it. The English, Emerson says, are "perfect in the 'noble 
vulgar speech,'" in that kind of expression which, "though spoken 

Natural History of Intellect ; Art and Criticism . ^Ibid. 


among princes", is "equally fit and welcome to the mob.""** Unbiased 
testimony to the merits of idiom as a usual abiding-place he finds 
in an unexpected nuarter. He twice quotes no less a Latinist than 
Dr. Johnson to this effect; "There is in every nation a style which 
never becomes obsolete, a certain mode of phraseology so consonant 
to the analogy snd principles of its respective language as to re- 
main settled and unaltered. This style is to be sought in the common 
intercourse of life among those who speak only to be understood, 
without ambition of elegance. The polite are always catching modish 
innovations, and the learned forsake the vulgar, when the vulgar is 
right; but there is a conversation above grossness and below re- 
finement, where propriety resides. 

Thus the idiomatic is standard, at least from an untrans- 
cendental point of view. It is satisfactory to the transcendental- 
ist also. He considers it equally fit for expressing either the 
actual or the ideal or both in combination. Being of the soil it is 
never forgetful of hard fact. At the same time its closeness to 
Mature gives it, through its symbolic quality, remarkable spiritual 
values , 

The idiomatic is accurate in expressing the actual because 
it is a part of Nature. The hunter or the miner "represents his 
facts as accurately as the cry of wolf or eagle tells of the forest 
or air they inhabit. "^ in this sense his words are things. The 
idiomatic, accordingly, is obviously corporeal. Emerson notes with 
gladness that the English "delight in strong earthy expression, not 

1 English Traits ; Literature . ^ Letters , etc .; Eloquence . Natural 

History of In tell ect ; Art and Criticism. ^ Lett ers , etc . : Poetry and 


mistakable, coarsely true to the human body. .. This homeliness, 
veracity, and plain style imports into songs and ballads the 

smell of the earth, the breath of cattle, and, like a Dutch painter, 
seeks a household charm, though by pails and pans."^ 

Such a style, because of the vitality of its origin, has 
force, "Goethe said, 'Poetry here, poetry there, I have learned to 
speak German,' And many of his poems are so idiomatic, so strong- 

ly rooted in the German soil, that they are the terror of trans- 
lators, ?;ho say they cannot be rendered into any other language with- 
out loss of vigor, as we say of any darling passage of our own 
masters . 

Not only is the idiomatic of one piece with Nature; it is 
a part of human nature, of life and experience- -and for this reason 
also accurate on the material plane. It deals only with essentials; 
it is absolutely untainted by literary affectation. Of Montaigne's 
writing Emerson says; "The sincerity and marrow of the man reaches 
to his sentences, I know not anywhere a book that seems less 
written. It is the language of conversation transferred to a book. 
Cut these words and they would bleed; they are vascular and alive. "3 
"Montaigne must have the credit of giving to literature that which 
we listen for in bar-rooms, the low speech, --words and phrases that 
no scholar coined; street-cries and war-cries; words of the boatman, 
the farmer and the lord; that have neatness and necessity, through 
their use in the vocabulary of work and appetite, like the pebbles 
which the incessant attrition of the sea has rounded. Every his- 

1 English Traits ; Literature . ^ Natural History of Intellect ; Art 
221 Criticism. Representative Men; Montaigne 


toric autobiographic trait authenticating the man adds to the value 
of the book. We can't afford to take the horse out of the Essays; 
it would take the writer too."^" M One has the same pleasure in "Mon- 
taigne's writing "that we have in listening to the necessary speech 
of men about their work, when any unusual circumstance gives momen- 
tary importance to the dialogue. For blacksmiths and teamsters do 
not trip in their speech; it is a shower of bullets. It is Cam- 
bridge men who correct themselves and begin again at every half 

sentence, and, moreover, will pun, and refine too much, and swerve 


from the matter to the expression 

Emerson deplores the affected, jejune, unidiomatic style 
of review articles and other literary productions in which too much 
learning has caused a general juicelessness . He speaks thus of the 
paucity of idiomatic writers in his day; "Our conventional style 
of writing is now so trite and poor, so little idiomatic, that we 
have several foreigners who write in our journals in a style not to 
be distinguished from their native colleagues ."3 He does not be- 
lieve in linguistic proficiency as an aid to expression. "When I 
read," he declares, "of various extraordinary polyglots, self-made 
or college-made, who can understand fifty languages, I answer that 
I shall be glad and surprised to find that they know one. For if I 
were asked how many masters of the English idiom I know, I shall be 
perplexed to count five."^ 

"Ought not," he asks, "the scholar to convey his meaning 

Natural Hi story of Intellect ; Art and Criticism . ^ Representative 
Men ; Montaigne . 3 Jour . V, 215 . %atural History of Intellect ; 
Art and Criticism. 


in terms as short and strong as the smith and drover use to convey 
theirs? You know the history of the eminent English writer on 
gypsies, George Borrow; he had one clear perception, that the key to 
every country was command of the language of the common people. He 
therefore mastered the patois of the gypsies, called Romany, which is 
spoken by them in all countries where they wander, in Europe, in 
Asia, in Africa. . , Bacon, if 'he could outcant a London chirur- 
geon, ' must have possessed the Romany under his brocade robes. LutheJ 
said, 'I preach coarsely; that giveth content to all. Hebrew, Greek 
and Latin I spare, until we learned ones come together, and then we 
make it so curled and finical that Go d himself wondereth at us. 1 He 
who would be powerful must have the terrible gift of f amiliarity , -- 
Mirabeau, Chatham, Fox, Burke, O'Connell, Patrick Henry; and among 
writers Swift, Defoe, and Carlyle." 1 

The writer best succeeds who recognizes the material 
veracity of the idiomatic and combines it with high thinking to se- 
cure the desired duality; who, like Carlyle, "draws strength and 
mother-wit out of a poetic use of the spoken vocabulary, so that his 
paragraphs are all a sort of splendid coverstion."^ Emerson's ad- 
vice is: "Speak with the vulgar, think with the wise. See how Plato 
managed it, with an imagination so gorgeous and a taste so patrician 
that Jove, if he descended, was to speak in this style. In the 
exquisite refinement of his Academy, he introduces the low-born Soc- 
rates, relieving the purple diction by his perverse talk, his galli- 
pots, and cook, and trencher, and cart-wheels , --and steadily kept 

' Natural History of Intellect ; Art and Criticism . ^ Jour . IV , 196-7 . 


th is coarseness to flavor a dish else too luscious. nX 

Emerson recognizes the dangers of this recommendation of 
low language. "Much of the raw material of the street talk," he 
admits, "is absolutely untranslatable into print, and one must learn 
from Burke how to be severe without being unparliamentary. Rabelais 
and Montaigne are masters of this Romany, but cannot be read aloud, 
and so far fall short. Whitman is our American master, but has not 
got out of the Fire-Club and gained the entree of the sitting-room. 1,2 
Sublimation may be necessary before the idiomatic is fit for use. 
Burns was an adept at this kind of refining, "He had that secret of 
genius to draw from the bottom of society the strength of its speech, 
and astonish the ears of the polite with these artless words, better 
than art, and filtered of all offence through his beauty. It seemed 
odious to Luther that the devil should have all the best tunes; he 
would bring them into the churches; and Burns knew how to take from 
fairs and gypsies, blacksmiths and drovers, the speech of the mar- 
ket and street, and clothe it with melody. "3 

But there is another reason besides its materiality vfaich 
causes the writer to avail himself of the popular speech. It has 
itself ideal values. In the first place, its material vitality makes 
it peculiarly fitted to the expression of the intense spiritually, 
Emerson notes in English Traits ( Solidarity ) that "In Parliament, in 
pulpits, in theatres, when the speakers rise to thought and passion, 
the language becomes idiomatic; the people in the street best under- 
stand the best words." And he declares that "the idioms of all lan- 

^- Natural History of Intellect ; Art and Criticism . Ibid. 
Miscellanies; Robert Burns . 


guages approach each other in passages of the greatest eloquence and 
power." 1 In the second place, the idiomatic, through its connection 
with Nature, is easily symbolic. "This immediate dependence of lan- 
guage upon nature, this conversion of an outward phenomenon into a 
type of somewhat in human life gives that piquancy to the con- 

versation of a strong-natured farmer or backwoodsman, which all men 
relish ," 2 

In several of his own wri tings Emerson takes advantage of 
the symbolic quality of the idiomatic, and shows the philosophical 
or the spiritual in the colloquial, For example; "There is a lit- 
tle formula, couched in pure Saxon, which you may hear in the cor- 
ners of streets and in the yard of the dame's school, from very 
little republicans: 'I'm as good as you be,' which contains the 
essence of the Massachusetts Bill of Rights and of the American 
Declaration of Independence ." ^ The law of compensation he illus- 
trates thus; "When I asked an iron-master about the slag and cin- 
der in railroad iron--'0,' he said, 'there's always good iron to 
be had; if there's cinder in the iron it is because there was cin- 
der in the pay.'" 4 * The British dollars-and-cents attitude he dis- 
covers is that of "our unvarnished Connecticut question 'Pray, sir, 
how do you get your living when you are at home?'" J The law of 
prudence is expressed, he believes, in the haymaker's advice: "'Keep 
the rake as nigh the scythe as you can, and the cart as nigh 

the rake.'" 6 He sees a lesson in optimism in "the sentiment of the 

Mature , etc . ; Language . 3 fl a tural Hi story of the Intellect ; Bo ston . 
2 Ibid . ^ Conduct of Life ; Consideratio ns by the V/ay . 5 English Traiti ; 
Ability . ^ Essays I_; Prudence . 


poor woman who, coming from a wretched garret in an inland manu- 
facturing town for the first time to the seashore, gazing at the 
ocean, said she was 'glad for once in her life to see something 
which there was enough of.'"^ Of Carlyle's Past and Present he 
says; w It has the merit which belongs to every honest book, that 
it was self- examining before it was eloquent, and so hits all other 
men, and, as the country people say of good preaching, 'comes bounce 
dwon into every pew.'*^ 

The idiomatic also has a spiritual character through its 
connection with the theory of Each and All. The speech of common 
people represents close contact with experience, and every experience 
gives scope for a complete gen eralization--in this case all the more 
valuable because of the range from the mean fact to the spiritual 
law. W A great principle anchored to a common wo rd never looses 

its hold on the mind; it is like seeing the laws of action in the 
swing of a pendulum. "3 it i s this universal extension to which the 
particular fact may be subjected that makes, for example, the ar- 
gumentative value of what Emerson calls "the lowest classifying words 
as, upstart, dab, cockney, prig, granny, lubber, puppy, peacock-- 
' cocktail House of Commons,' I remember when a venerable divine 
called a young preacher's sermon 'patty-cake.' The sans-culottes at 
Versailles cried out, 'Let our little Mother Mirabeau speak. '"4 
"what argument, what eloquence can avail against the power of that 

^- Letters . etc.: Resources . ^Natural History of Intellect ; Papers 
from the Dial , Past and Present . S Expression . Natural History of 
Intellect: Art and Criticism. 


one word niggers? "^ 

One kind of idiomatic classifying words of which Emerson 
is fond is nicknames. "No orator can measure in effect with him 
who can give good nicknames," he says.^ He uses them so often him- 
self that we wonder why he did no speak appreciation of the names 
which Dickens and Thackeray give their characters. We have already 

seen him characterizing the stupid man as Mr. Dunderhead. Mr. Grand 


and Mr. Hand make their appearance in Spiritual Laws as delivering 
orations on the Fourth of July, the latter before the Mechanic's 
Association. Mr. Profitlo3S in Power^; Hotspur and Furlong in 
Wealth 4 ; Mr. Curfew, Messieurs Turbinewheel , Summitlevel, and Lacof ru- 
pees in Culture^ : Mr. Cockayne, the amateur farmer^; Mr. Hobnail, 
the reformer**- -are some more rather ordinary examples. Truly de- 
lightful, however, are "Reverend Jul Bat, who has converted the 
whole torrid zone in his Sunday school; Signor Torre del Greco, who 
extinguished Vesuvius by pouring into it the Bay of Naples;"^ and 
best of all Mr. Crump "with his grunting resistance to all his 
native devils. "9 

Idiomatic language, through its intimate connection with 
nature and experience^, does the double work that Emerson demands of 
expression. With this in mind, it is not surprising to find him 
applying similar principles to the use of Saxon and Latin. In gen- 
eral he believed that "the short Saxon words with which the people 
help themselves are better than Latin," and preferred the Saxon, 

^Jour. VII, 38. ^ Representative Men ; Plato. ^Conduct of Life . 
4 Ibid . 5 Ibid. Conduct of Life ; Wealth . 7 Essays II: Manners . 
6 Ibid. 9 Bssays I; Spiritual Laws. 


simpler, less pedantic words to the words of Latin derivation; be- 
gin for commence, unfolding far development, etc. M Be wary of the 
whole family of f ero , w * is his caution: preference he believed in- 
ferior to choice, defer to give way, infer to gather, collate to 
bring together, translate to render, 

"One would," he asserts, "think the right use of words is 
almost lost who reads such a sentence as that of Lord Jeffreys to 
Richard Baxter, and compares it with our Latinized formulas, 'Rich- 
ard, thou art an old knave; thou hast written books enough to load 
a cart; every one as full of sedition as an egg is full of meat, I 
know thou hast a mighty party, and a great many of the brotherhood 
are waiting in corners to see what will become of their mighty Don; 
but by the grace of almighty God, I'll crush you all.' "2 

The Saxon word is likely to be more exact. It is short; 
it is close to life, experience and nature; it is language stripped, 
language which conveys only the bare essentials--and hence accurate, 
especially on a low plane. It is near kin to the actual thing even 
if it is not one with it. Unlike the word of Latin derivation, 
literary affectation has had no chance at it. The Latin word is at 
one remove from the thing it describes; and, as we shall see later 
in discussing compression and understatement, suffers from a ten- 
dency to excess, to inflation. On the other hand, the word of Latin 
derivation may often be accurate since it is directly allied to the 
higher and more abstract mental processes. Thus when properly 
blended with Saxon, it brings about the proper combination in ex- 

%atural History of Intellect ; Art and Criticism . ^ Jour .VIII, 421. 


pression of the physical and the metaphysical. 

"In English, " says Emerson, "only those sentences stand, 
which are good both for the scholar and the cabman, Latin and Saxon; 
half and half; perfectly Latin and perfectly English." 1 "It is a 
tacit rule of the language," he comments in English Traits ,** "to 
make the frame or skeleton of Saxon words, and, when elevation or 
ornament is sought, to interweave Roman, but sparingly; nor is a 
sentence made of Roman words alone without loss of strength. The 
children and laborers," he observes, "use the Saxon unmixed. The 
Latin unmixed is abandoned to the colleges and Parliament. Mixture 
is a secret of the English island; and, in their dialect, the male 
principle is the Saxon, the female, the Latin, and they are combined 
in every good discourse. A. good writer, if he has indulged in a 
Roman roundness, makes haste to chasten and nerve his period by 
English monosyllables ."3 "in all English rhetoric we use alternate- 
ly a Saxon and a Roman word; often, two Saxon, but never willingly 
or wisely two Roman; e.g. 'A popular body of four hundred men. 1 'A 
correct and manly debater. '"^ 

To be associated with Emerson's liking for the idiomatic is 
his fondness for popular forms of language which are in immediate 
touch with life and nature, and therefore satisfactory to both sense 
and spirit. The language of children, slang, the ungrammatical, 
profanity, and proverbs come in for a share of his approval. 

Children's language comes close to the thing, and it is 
likely to be picturesque and symbolic, thus fulfilling the double 

1 Jour. VII, 561, 2 Literature . 5 English Traits ; Literature . 
4 Jour . VIII, 421. 


requirement which Emerson exact3. Their language is not a second- 
hand copy from books; it lives. Emerson asks: "What is so bewitch- 
ing as the experiments of young children on grammar and language? 
The purity of their grammar corrects all the anomalies of our ir- 
regular verbs and anomalous nouns* They carry the analogy through. 
Bi te makes bited , and eat , eated , in their preterite. Waldo says 
there is no 'telling' on my microscope, meaning no name of the maker, 
as he has seen on knife-blades, etc, 'Where is the wafer that lives 
in this box?' etc. They use the strong double negative which we 
English have lost from our books, though we keep it in the street. 
'I wish you would not dig your leg,' said Waldo to me. Ellen calls 
the grapes 'green berries,' and when I asked, 'Does it rain this 
morning?' she said, 'There's tears on the window.' "^ 

We have previously seen that Emerson discovers the law of 
identity in variety revealed by the symbolic character of boyish 
slang. To the examples already given we may add some others in 
which he found the figurative element in slang interesting. "What 
can describe the folly and emptiness of scolding like the word j aw- 
ing? " 2 "The collegians have seldom made a better word than 'squirt' 
for a showy sentence. 'Honey-pie^' says State Street, when there is 
flattery; 'All my eye,' when any exaggeration ." 3 

Slang and faulty grammar have strength to compensate for 
their lack of respectability. "Who has not heard in the street how 
forcible is bosh, gammon, and gas. I envy the boys the force of the 
double negative (no shoes, no money, no nothing) I "^ 

^•Jour. V, 435. 2 Jour . V, 419. 3 Jour . VIII, 20. Natural History 
of Intellect ; Art and Critici sm. 


Grammatical errors are discoverable in Emerson's text, but 
his mistakes are rather of the nature of slips than defiantly in- 
tentional. Slang is almost wholly absent. I find but one dubious 
instance, this with the symbolic character so strong that the pos- 
sibly base origin is entirely outgrown. The use of the word gas in 
the following is of particular interest since, as we have just seen, 
Emerson speaks of his enjoyment at hearing it "in the street." 
"'Tis odd that our people should not have water on the brain, but a 
little gas there."* 

Emerson's delight in profanity as a form of idiomatic 
speech is due to the esthetic and philosophical pleasure which he 
derives from it. He recognizes that under normal conditions it can- 
not with propriety enter into written expression, but at the same 
time he perceives its adequacy. It has life and vigor; in it, as 
in Carlyle's style, the "vicious conventions of writing are all 
dropped* 2 words are one with things. "This profane swearing has 
salt and fire in it," he declares; and thus describes its exactness 
and directness: 

"wliile Jake retorts and Reuben roars; 
Scoff of yeoman strong and stark, 
Goes like bullet to its mark; 
"While the solid curse and jeer 
Never balk the waiting ear."^ 
"I confess to some pleasure," he says, "to some titilla- 
tion of my ears, from the stinging rhetoric of a rattling oath in 

^- Conduct of Life : Culture . 2 Natural History of Intellect : Art 
and Criticism. ^ Po ems ; flfonadnoc . 


the mouth of truckmen and teamsters. How laconic and brisk it is 
by the side of a page from the North American Review*. In the infin- 
ite variety of talents, 'tis certain that some men swear with 
genius, . , What traveller has not listened to the Sacre l of the 
French postilion, the Sia ammazato '. of the Italian contadino, or the 
deep stomach of an English drayman's execration. I remember an oc- 
casion when a proficient in this style came from North Street to 
Cambridge, and drew a crowd of young critics in the college yard, 
who found his wrath so aesthetic and fertilizing that they took 
notes and even overstayed the hour of the mathematical professor." 
"What a pity that we cannot curse and swear in good society'. Can- 
not the stinging dialect of the sailors be domesticated? It is the 
best rhetoric, and for a hundred occasions these words are the only 
good ones. My page about 'Consistency' would be better written thus; 
Damn Consistency'. "2 

Sincere profanity satisfies as expression of the actual; 
indeed, Emerson's liking of it is the result of his perfect im- 
partiality; his wish to recognize in the world of sense truth to 
fact in describing those things in which sense is absolutely un- 
adulterated, his wish "to give even the devil his due, "3 This is 
to be compared with his sympathetic portrait of Mephistopheles in 
Go ethe^ : and with his remarks in another essay: "We were educated 
in horror of Satan, but Goethe remarked that all men like to hear 
him named. Burns took him into compassion and expressed a blind 
wish for his reformation. 

^ Jour . V, 419 combined with Natural Hi story of Intellect : Art and 

Criticism . ^ Jo ur . V, 484. 5 Lecture3 , etc.: Plutarch. ^Representative 

'Ye aiblins might, I dinna ken, 
Still have a stake."*-- 
a wish which, Emerson says, Plutarch would have joined.^" "And 
George Sand finds a whole nation who regard him as a personage who 
has been greatly wronged, and in which he is really the subject of 
a covert worship. 

Another reason for Emerson's pleasure in profanity is 
that he enjoys ppower wherever manifested, and strength as well as 
accuracy accompanies the swearing which is the result of genuine 
intensity of belief. Thus he quotes Lord Eldon as saying in his 
old age that "'if he were to begin life again, he would be damned 
but he would begin as agitator.' "3; and tells us that H In 1809 the 
majority in Parliament expressed itself by the language of Mr. Pul- 
ler in the House of Commons, 'If you do not like the country, damn 
you, you can leave it."* 4 

Besides, profanity properly regarded is symbolic; it is a 
proof of Emerson's belief in the negative character of evil'. "As a 
study in language the use" of the word devil "is curious, to show 
how words help us and must be philosophical. The Devil in philosophy 
is absolute negation, falsehood, nothing; and in the popular mind, 
the Devil is a malignant person. Yet all our speech expresses the 
first sense. 'The Devil a monk was he,' means, he was no monk , and 
'The Devil you did'.' means vpu did not ."5 

Proverbs Emerson gives a high place. They are in all 

^Lectures, etc.: Plutarch . ural History of Intellect : Art 

and Criticism . ^ Essays II: Nominalist and Realist . ^English 
Traits : Wealth . Natural History of Intellect ; Art and Criticism. 

respects adequate expression. On the material side they satisfy 
because M they are alive and vascular. There is blood and marrow in 
them."l Furthermore, "theirs is a felicity of expression that . . 
is bought only by long experience. "2 

On the spiritual side, too, they have great merit. They 
"come from the character, " 3 and from the character, also, of not one 
man but many; from the reason of the universal man, that intellec- 
tual organ through which the Oversoul speaks. They are "the state- 
ments of an absolute truth without qualification", "the sanctuary 
of the intuitions."^ Thus they are exact expression on the highest 
level; in common with "words, and grammar inflections" they "convey 
the public sense with more purity and precision than the wisest in- 
dividual. "5 

And like all ideal expression, they are symbolic. Though 
some "have so the smell of current bank-bills that one seems to get 
all the savor of the marie e tmen ♦ s pockets," ^ "there is no maxim of 
the merchant which does not admit of an extended sense, e.£., 'Best 
use of money is to pay debts;* 'Every business by itself;' 'Best 
time is present time;' 'The right investment is in tools of your 
trade;' and the like. The counting-room maxims liberally expounded 
are laws of the Universe,"''' Indeed, "that which the droning world, 
chained to appearances, will not allow the realist to say in his 
own words, it will suffer him to say in proverbs without contra- 
diction."® And it is true also that "the poor and low have their way 

^ Expression . 2 Ibid . 5 Ibid . 4 Essays I; Compensation . 
Assays II: No minalist and Realist . 6 Jour . V, 35-6. ^ Conduct of 
Life : Wealth . 8 EssayB I; Compensation . 


of expressing the last facts of philosophy as well as you. blessed 
be nothing' and 'The worse things are, the better they are' are 
proverbs which express the transcendentalism of common life."l 

Moreover, since proverbs are so entirely the result of 
experience, the law of Each and All applies to them with especial 
force. "Every homely proverb covers a single and grand fact. Two 
of these are often in my head lately; 'Every dog has his day,' which 
covers this fact of otherism, or rotation of merits; and 'There are 
as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it'; which was Nelson's 
adage of merit , and all men's of marriage . My third proverb is as 
deficient in superficial melody as either of the others: 'The 
Devil is an ass.' The seamen use another which has much true 
divinity; 'Every man for himself and God for us all. '"2 "See," 
Emerson bids us, "what vast truths and principles informing such 
simple and common facts'. It reminds one of suns and stars engraved 
on buttons and knife-handles ." 3 

As some of the quotations just given evidence, Emerson 
often took advantage of proverbs to support his doctrines. Other 
examples are to be found, in addition to furtner illustrations in 
the essays cited, in almost every essay in Conduct of Life , in The 
Over-Soul, 4 and in the lectures on War and The Fugitive Slave Law .^ 

Popular speech holds fast on life and nature, and there- 
fore has in it all the qualities which Emerson desires in expression. 
In the field of either the actual or the ideal it is simple, sin- 
cere, pithy, direct, and strong; and it is exact because it is in- 

Essays I; Circles . 2 Jo ur . V, 55-6. ^Expression . Assays I . 
Miscellanies . 


separable from the thing it describes. Its speakers have eyes which 
are keen and in focus; and they say what they see naturally, with- 
out damaging the value of their testimony through regard to bookish 
artificialities. Consequently out of the mouths of children, far- 
mers, and blacksmiths proceedeth wisdom, for in telling the material 
facts of experience and nature as they see them they often utter 
spiritual truths; the actual being but the miniature counterfeit 
presentment of the ideal. 


c . Compression 

Many influences contribute toward Emerson's belief in 
compression as a quality of style. Most important, probably, is 
the nature of the man. Terseness has always marked the utterances 
of the wise man; and though many dispute Emerson's position as a 
philosopher, few deny that he is a sage, one of the Magi of all time. 
Such supermen or prophets or men of insight«-names vary, though the 
phenomenon is simllar--are famed not because of their connected dis- 
course, but because of their pithy, universally wise sayings, "All 
the world loves a lover," H The only way to have a friend is to be 
one, "--through such apothegms as these the world knows Emerson. 
Rightly, for it is his whole tendency to wrap up his observations in 
neat, small packages. Like the other great prospectors of wisdom, 
he instinctively picks up from the sands of the river of truth nug- 
gets of pure gold--handfuls only, but of exceeding price. 

This native power is cousin to his propensity to tabulation. 
When his thoughts have continuity, he wishes them in convenient, 
portable, easily remembered form. He takes pleasure in boiling down 
a theory thus; 

"Man puts things in a row. 
Things belong in a row. 

The showing of the true row is science. "1 
He is the expert advertiser or headline writer turned philosophical. 

ijour. IV, 60. 


His essays are frequently organized on the same principle. He 
numbers his points, in true ministerial style. After he has intro- 
duced a discussion in his Journals , he commands himself; "Come, 
then, count your reasons ."^ 

Pedantry is not responsible for this tendency to enumer- 
ation. It is rather Emerson's desire to express himself adequately, 
to make words one V7ith things. He counts that he may be sure of 
dealing only with things and not with mental shadows. By taking 
inventories frequently, he wards himself from the temptation to dis- 
pose of more stock than he really has on hand. 

Compare with this attitude towards writing his parallel 
attitude toward its converse--reading. His point of view toward 
reading in general and philosophy in particular is not unlike that 
of the crammers in Owen Wister's classic college story, Philosophy 
Four . Says one of Vaew in the midst of the process; "'Oh, yes, 
Eobbes and his gang. There is only one substance, matter, but it 
doesn't strictly exist. Bodies exist. We've got Eobbes. Go on,'" 
Emerson likewise cared only for irreducible minima. He reckons the 
indispensable molecules in a book, and guided by this criterion, 
arrives at an estimate of its value. "I judge of a book," he says, 
" by number and weight, counting the things that are in it. "2 
This method he considers justified by the small number of thoughts 
that each book contributes, "They say," he writes, "that though the 
stars appear so numberless, you cannot count more than a thousand. 
Well, there are few thoughts. Count the books and you would think 

iJour. IX, 217. 2 Jour . IV, 25-4. 


there was immense wealth: but any expert knows that there are few 

thoughts which have emerged in his time. Shut him up in a closet, 

and he would soon tell them all. They are quoted, contradicted, 

modified, but the amount remains computably small. "^ 

Emerson's policy toward reading is that of selection to 

the nth power. "I wish only to read," he says, "that which it would 


be a serious disaster to have missed." In regard to the needless- 
ness of a minute scrutiny of Platonic writers as a basis for under- 
standing Platonism he inquires; "To know the flavor of tansy, must 
I eat all the tansy "Bat grows by the wall?" It is "as if, to know 
the tree, you should make me eat all the apples. It is not given 
to one man to express himself adequately more than a few times: and 
I believe fully ,. in interpreting the French Revolution by anec- 
dotes, though not every diner-out can do it."* "Among our social 
advantages," he exclaims, "what a signal convenience is fame* Do 
we read all authors, to grope our way to the best? No; but the 
world selects for us the best, and we select from the best, our 
best, "^ And in these best books of ours, we select our sentences, 
or it may be, our words. "My debt to Plato," Emerson tells us, "is 
a certain number of sentences: the like to Aristotle. A larger num- 
ber, yet still a finite number, make the worth of Milton and Shak- 
spear to me,"^ "*Tis really," he writes in his Journals later, "by 
a sentence or a phrase or two that many great men are remembered. 
Zoroaster has three or four, and Marcus Aurelius only as many."^ 

1 Jour. IX, 134-5. 2 Jour . IX, 429. 3 Jour. VIII, 44-5. 4 Jour.VII, 52 
Several pages in Books in Society and Solitude are to the same ef- 
fect. 5 Jour. IV, 23-4. 6 Jour . X, 262. 


And the extent of our debt "to every book that interests us" may 
be so low as "one or two words. Thus, to Vestiges of Creation we 
owe 1 arrested development . 1 I remember to have seen three or four 
important words claimed as the result of Bentham, of which I think 
•international 1 was one."! 

So exacting a standard in regard to reading requires one 
of similar severity in regard to writing. The writer must avoid 
the fault of the Brook Farm reformers, who, Emerson says, "made it 
a rule not to bolt their flour, and unfortunately also neglected to 
sift their thoughts. 1,2 He may well anticipate the reader's process 
of selection. "The art of the writer is to speak his thought and 
have done. Let your reader find that he cannot afford to omit any 
line of your writing, because you have omitted every word that he 
can spare. You are annoyed-- are you?-- that your fine friends do 
not read you? They are better friends than you knew, and have done 
you the rarest service. Now write so that they must. When it is a 
disgrace to them that they do not know what you have said, you will 
hear the echo," 3 

Adopting the reader's point of view and saving him the 
trouble of picking out essentials makes for expression which is 
adequate--in the realm of either actual or ideal--because vital, 
spontaneous, exact. "All writing, H Emerson asserts, "should be 
selection in order to drop every dead word. Who do you not save out 
of your speech or thinking only the vital things, --the spirited mot 
which amused or warmed you when you spoke it,- -because of its luck 

1 Jour. VII, 69-70. 2 Jour . VI, 475. 3 Jpur. IX, 456-7. 


and newness? I have just been reading, in this careful book of a 
most intelligent and learned man, any number of flat conventional 
words and sentences. If a man would learn to read his own manuscript 
severely , -•becoming really a third person, and search only for what 
interested him, he would blot to purpose, --and how every page would 
gain'. Then all the words will be sprightly, and every sentence a 
surprise. In writing, as Hesiod says, "the half is better than 
the whole. w Or, as the neat Franch phrase has it, "The secret of 
boring you is that of telling all." If we are going to write truly, 
we must blot resolutely. "Resolute blotting rids you of all those 
phrases that sound like something and mean nothing. As soon as you 
read aloud, you will find what sentences drag. Blot them out, and 
read again, you will find the words that drag."^ 

Compression is important whether the writer is expressing 
the material or the spiritual. For the former purpose its advantages 
are obvious. Because of its exactness, it saves time. Commendable 
"frugality" of this sort Emerson sees in Goethe, wtoere "you shall 
find no word that does not stand for a thing, "^ 

That condensation makes for accuracy on a low plane is 
shown also by the effect on language of those who use it as a ne- 
cessity and not as a literary luxury: "See how children build up a 
language; how every traveller, every laborer, every impatient boss 
who sharply shortens the phrase or the word to give his order qi ick- 
er, reducing it to the lowest possible terras, and there it must 
8 tay, --improves the national tongue."^ Working of the same tendency 

^Jour. X, 303. %atural Histor y of Intellect : Art and Criticism . 

S tatural History of Intellect ; Papers from the Di al . Thoughts on 
Modern Literature. ^Letters, etc.: Resources . 


is apparent in the economical exactness of the idiomatic; of the 
Saxon element in English, for example. "Saxon words form 
the nerve and sinew of the best writing of our day; while the 
Latin is the fat. The Saxon puts small and convenient handles to 
things, handles that are easy to grasp; while your ponderous John- 
sonian phraseology distends and exaggerates, and never peels the 
chaff from the wheat. Johnson's periods act like a lever of the 
third kind, •-the power applied always exceeds the weight raised; 
while the terse, laconic style of later writers is eminently a lever 
of the first principle, and gives the mind the utmost purchase on 
the subject in hand."* Children's language has a like merit; "What 
is so weak and thin as our written style to-day in what is called 
literature? We use ten wxds for one of the child* s # His strong 
speech is made up of nouns and verbs, $jid names the facts. w2 

In the literature of the ideal compression is even more 
necessary than in that of the actual* n, Tis inexcusable in a man 
who has messages to men, who has truths to impart, to scribble 
flourishes* He should write that which cannot be omitted; every 
sentence a cube, standing on its bottom like a die, essential and 
immortal. When cities are sacked and libraries burned, this book will 
be saved, --prophetic , sacted, a book of life.* 1 ** 

In poetry, consequently, compression is to be carried 
farther than in prose, i'or though prose may be ideal in content, 
poetry must be. Rhyme and rhythm, as well as lofty sjrmbols, are 
unmistakable indications of the altitude of poetry and make neces- 

1 Exp ression . 2 Jour . V, 435. 3 Jour. IX, 423 

— — _____ — 

sary a difference in its material from that of prose. It carries 
selection of substance much farther. Prose "selects only the 
eminent experiences; Poetry, the supereminent ." 1 Hence Emerson 
says that "In reading prose, I am sensible as soon as a sentence 
drags, but in reading poetry, as soon as one word drags." 2 The 
poet, to a far greater extent than the prose-writer, must "omit all 
but the important passages. Shakspeare is made up of important 
passages, like Damascus steel made of old nails," Poetry is pe- 
culiarly the result of inspiration, and "the inexorable rule in the 
muses' court, either inspiration or silence , compels the bard to 
report only his supreme moments. It teaches the enormous force of 
a few words, and in proportion to the inspiration checks loquacity. "^ 

Compression, furthermore, is characteristic of ideal style 
because such expression must be symbolic or suggestive rather than 
direct. Those who came to Emerson seeking advice on moral questions 
worked out their own answers, his habit being not to reply expressly 
but to stimulate the inquirer to a right solution by speaking of 
parallel matters or in general terms. Such is the case with every- 
thing partaking of the nature of the divine: we see God in the burn- 
ing bush rather than face to face. "God himself does not speak 
prose, but communicates with us by hints, omens, inferences, and 
dark resemblances in objects lying all around us ." • Knowing this, 
the writer chooses the concise style in his attempts to convey the 
spiritual. Since not what is said but what is hinted is important 

1 Jour. VII, 517. 2 Jour . IX, 214. ^Letters , etc.: Poetry and 
Pagination . 4 Ibid . 5 Ibid . 


he leaves to the reader the creative pleasure of supplying "the 
unsaid part" which is "the best of every discourse." 1 Thus it is 
that "the silences, pauses of an orator are as telling as his 
words;" 2 and that in written discourse suppression may do more to 
convey the high thought than any number of words. By their absence, 
words make noble thought perspicuous as well as conspicuous. 

The limitations to which language is subject account in 
large measure for the fact that conciseness marks the ideal ex- 
pression. Even when we understand spiritual truths, we still find 
them incommunicable. They "refuse to be adequately stated." The 
roundness and completeness which characterize the ideal thought 
words, which are detached particles, can never satisfactorily rep- 
resent. "The moral traits which are all globed into every virtuous 
act and thought--in speech we must sever, and describe or suggest 
by painful enumeration of many particulars," " And when our spiritual 
perceptions are weak, the impulse to heap up details in the effort 
to achieve an ineffable whole, is all the stronger, "In proportion 
as a man f s life comes into union with truth," Emerson declares, "his 
thoughts approach to a parallelism with the currents of natural laws, 
so that he easily expresses his meaning by natural symbols, or uses 
the ecstatic or poetic speech. In proportion as his life de- 

parts from this simplicity, he uses circumlocution > --by many words 
hoping to suggest what he cannot say."* These being the difficulties, 
it is plain that correction must come by avoiding the leaning toward 
verbosity which is the sign of weakness, and by using the one apt 

1 Jour, III, 492. Natural History of Intellect : Art and Criticism . 
^ Nature , etc.: Address . ^ Letters , etc.: Poetry and Imagination 


symbolic phrase which is most largely implicative. 

In connection with compression as a quality of spiritual 
expression, there should be mentioned another cause operating in 
Emerson's case to make him favor this quality. This was his disgust 
at the unmeaning prolixity of the sermons of his day. "But the 
minister in these day," Emerson complains, "--how little he says*. 
Who is the most decorous man? and no longer, who speaks the most 
truth? Look at the orations of Demosthenes and Burke, and how many 
irrelevant things, sentences, words, letters, are there? Not one. 
Go into one of our cool churches, and begin to count the words that 
might be spared, and in most places the whole sermon will go. One 
sentence kept another in countenance, but not one by its own weight 
could have justified the saying of it, 'Tis the age of Parenthesis, 
You might put all we say in brackets and it would not be missed. "^ 
Better was the practice of Emerson's uncle, the Rev. Ezra Ripley, 
"The structure of his sentences was admirable; so neat, so natural, 
so terse, his words fell like stones; a.nd often, though quite uncon- 
scious of it, his speech was a satire on the loose, voluminous, 
draggle-tail periods of other speakers. "^ Emerson records his plea- 
sure, too, on an occasion when "Rev. Phillips Brooks offered a prayer, 
in which not a word was superfluous, and every right thing was said,"* 

Emerson found ministers particularly prone to use stero- 
typed phrases, phrases which should be omitted because they do not 
stand for things. He shares Coleridge's aversion to the insincere, 
because individually unthought and unfelt, expression fallen into by 

1 Jour. Ill, 548-9. 2 Lectures , etc.: Ezra Ripley , D. D. s Jour.X, SS3 ( 


th e preacher who believes that the words of the Bible are the only 
inspired and hence the only fit ones for religious uses. He asserts 
that if he made laws for a divinity school, he would "gazette every 
Saturday all the words they were wont to use in reporting religious 
experience, as 'spiritual life,' 'God,' ♦soul,* 'cross,' etc., and 
if they could not find new ones next week, they might remain silent."- 
And in general, he objects to making literature "a sum in the arith- 
metical table, permutation and combination, "2 mj ii p e the time will 
come," he says, H when it will be unpardonable to say, 'the times 
that tried men's sould,' or anything about 'a cause'," or "'the good 
and the true,'"* 

Besides religious and philosophical words which have been 
"used up," "a list might be made of showy words that tempt young 
writers," and have likewise been done to death; " asphodel , harbinger , 
chalice , flamboyant , golden , diamond , amethyst , opal and the rest 
of the precious stones, carcanet , di adern .'' ^ 

Not only the words which hare become fossilized through 
too frequent use of others, but those which we ourselves favor to 
excess are objectionable, Sainte-Beuve speaks of the fondness of 
writers for certain words, and of the clue this furnishes to their 
ruling passion or fixed idea. (Perhaps Holmes got the hint from 
Sainte-Beuve to interpret Emerson by his favorite words, which he 
says are haughty , fine , and melioration .) Similarly, Emerson says 
that "Persons have been named from their abuse of certain phrases, 

1 Jour. VI, 


2 Jour. III. 549. 3iMd. %atural History of 



and Criticism. 5 Ibid. ^Ralph Waldo Emerson. 


as 'Pyramid' Lambert, 'Finality' Russell, 'Humanity' Martin, 'Hori- 
zon' Turner." E, P. Whipple^ tells of a conversation in which he 
remarked on Emerson's frequent use of the word grim . "Do you say 
I use the word often?" asked Emerson in some alarm. "The word is 
probably passing with me into a mannerism, and I must hereafter 
guard against it, --must banish it from my dictionary." 

Emerson's advocacy of compression should also be consider- 
ed in relation to the ^ach and All theory, and with regard to his 
methods of organization as connected with that theory. Since the 
whole truth resides in ^ny part of the truth, his effort is to 
write short sentences which as he says of proverbs, "give us pocket- 
editions of the most voluminous truths. Such sentences have an 
independent value and possibilities of independent existence apart 
from their context. Emerson often writes sentences which he him- 
self calls "infinitely repellent particles," which which may be more 
accurately described as he describes those of Landor: "Of many of 
Mr. Landor' s sentences we are fain to remember what was said of 
those of Socrates, that they are cubes, which will stand firm, place 
them how or where you will."^ 

Emerson's accidental discovery of the individual merit of 
the sentences in his first book he tells thus in his Journals: "To- 
day came to me the first proof-sheet of Nature to be corrected, like 
a new coat, full of vexations; with the first sentences of the 
chapters perched like mottoes aloft in small type'. The peace of the 

^Natural History of Intellect ; Art and Critici sm . Recollections 
of Eminent Men ; Some Recollections of Ralph Waldo Emerson . ^Ex- 
pression . ^ Natural Hi story of I ntellect ; Papers from th e Dial , 
Walter Savage Landor. 


author can not be wounded by such trifles, if he sees that the sen- 
tences are still good. A good sentence cannot be put out of coun- 
tenance by any blunder of compositors. It is good in text or note, 
in poetry or prose, as title or corollary. But a bad sentence shows 
all his flaws instantly by such dislocation. So that a certain 
sublime serenity is generated in the soul of the poet by the 
annoyances of the press. He sees that the spirit may infuse a sub- 
tle logic into the parts of the piece which shall defy all accidents 
to break their connexion,"^ 

Emerson, then, favors the "solid" sentence, in which "you 

can even spare punctuation," since the place of the word "in the 


sentence should make its emphasis."*' Carlyle, he notes approvingly, 
"crowds meaning into all the nooks and corners of his sentences. 
Once read, he is but half read."^ The good proverb satisfies be- 
cause in it "there is no waste material ., ; it is clear meat, 
like an egg."^ The epitaph in Boswell's Johnson "on the criminal 
who was killed by a fall from his horse" is excellent; 

"Between the stirrup and the ground 
I mercy asked and mercy found." 
For "which word can you spare, what can you add?" 

But such praise of the solid sentence does not mean that 
compression is to be confounded with "an obscure, elliptical style," 
There is a wide difference between them. "A good writer must convey 
the feeling of a flamboyant witness, and at the same time of chemic 
selection, --as if in his densest period there was no cramp, but room 

1 Jour, IV, 81-2. 2 Jour . Ill, 272. 5 Jour . IV, 196. Expression . 
5 Jour . IV, 268. 


to turn a chariot and horses. In good hands," compression "will 

never become sterility/* for "the dense writer has yet ample room 
and a choice of phrase, and even a gamesome mood often between his 
valid words. There is no inadequacy or disagreeable contraction in 
his sentence, any more than in a human face, wherein in a square 
space of a few inches is found room for every possible variety of 
expression. There must be no cramp insufficiency, but the super- 
fluous must be omitted. In the Hindoo mythology, ' Viswaharman' place c 
the sun on his lathe to grind off some of the effulgence, and in 
this manner reduced it to an eighth, --more was inseparable."^ 

Though Emerson's sentences are compressed, it has been 
charged with some justice that all his ideas are presented in Nature , 
and the two series of Essays , and that later work is merely ampli- 
fication and repetition. Emerson was aware of this criticism, and 
acknowledged its possible validity. "Why do I write another line," 
he asks, "since my best friends assure me that in every line I re- 
peat myself?" 2 "Captain Franklin," he says in an earlier passage 
in the Journals, "after six weeks' traveling to the North Pole on the 
ice, found himself two hundred miles south of the spot he set out 
from; the ice had floated. And I sometimes start to think I am look- 
ing out the same vocables in the Dictionary, spelling out the same 
sentences, solving the same problems .--My ice may float also ,"3 

Professor Firkins^ goes even farther than this. Not only 
in different books, but in the same essay, even in the same paragraph, 

^ Natural Hi story of Intellect ; Art and Criticism combined wi th Papers 
from the Dial , Walter Savage Landor . 2 Jo ur . VI, 73, 5 Jour . Ill, 460. 
4 Ralph Waldo Emerson. 


he finds repetition. However condensed the sentences, individually 
considered, may be, a multitude of examples illustrating one main 
thought are sometimes grouped to make an essay, as in History .^ 
Every compartment in the sample-case is snugly packed, but every one 
holds a sample of the same kind of commodity. 

The incongruities of the situation are to a considerable 
extent explained by the Each and All theory. Emerson delights in 
seeing the oak in any one acorn; but at the same time he is by so 
much more pleased when he sees the phenomenon repeated in a great 
variety of instances. Thus the same theory gives rise to the 
apparent contradiction of compression in the sentences, and repe- 
tition in the larger units. 

One other aspect of interrelationship between the methods 
of constructing sentences and of building up paragraphs and sen- 
tences need to be spoken of. This is the unfortunate effect of lack 
of clearness in progression of the thought caused on the one hand by 
the attempt to secure condensation in the sentence, and on the other 
hand by Emerson's disbelief in too obvious transition. The sen- 
tence which is constructed so that it may stand alone has a tendency 
to find this isolation though juxtaposed to other sentences ex- 
pressing part of the same general line of thought. And from omitted 
transition come both obscurity and again a detaching, over-aphoristic 
effect on the sentences. Thus Emerson's strength and his weakness 
meet , 

There is still to be mentioned another influence con- 

^ Essays I . 


tributing toward Emerson* s belief in compression. This is its 
artistic quality. "The line of beauty is the result of perfect 
economy. * It is the purgation of superfluities,* said Michael 

Angelo . ,. This art of omission is a chief secret of power, and, 
in general, it is proof of high culture to say the greatest matters 
in the simplest way.** 1 This is a Greek ideal, and Emerson recognized 
it as such. "Access to the Greek mind," he says, "lifts" the Eng- 
lishman* s "standard of taste. .. The great silent crowd of 
thorough-bred Grecians always known to be around him, the English 
writer cannot ignore. They prune his orations and point his pen."** 
In explaining the small number of entries in the Journal for 1860, 
Dr. Edward Emerson tells us that "This was due to Mr. Emerson's 
occupation of severely pruning and refining for his book, Conduct of 
Life , the lectures which, as delivered, had much matter to hold the 
attention of Lyceum audiences in the country at large. Mrs. Emerson 
remonstrated, missing good anecdotes and lighter touches, but her 
husband answered, 'No we must put on their Greek jackets for the 
book.'" 3 

In theory and in practice, of course, Emerson recognizes 
exceptions to this rigid requirement of omission. The man whose 
range of thought and expression is wide has a right to fluency and 
plenteousness of style. Such a man was Rabelais, "The style at 
once decides the high quality of the man. It flows like the river 
Amazon, so plentiful, so transparent, and with such long reaches, 
that longanimity or longsightedness which belongs to the Platos. No 

^ Conduct of Life ; Beau ty. ^ Engl i sh Traits ; Universities . 5 Jour .IX. 
287 Note. 


sand without lime, no short, chippy, indigent epigrammatist or 
proverbialist with docked sentences, but an exhaustless af f luence."-*- 

"How remarkable," also, "the principle of iteration in 
rhetoric 1 . We are delighted with it in rhyme, in poetic prose, in 
song, alcove all, allowing a line to be not only a burden to the 
whole song, but, as in negro melodies, to be steadily repeated three 
or four times in immediate succession. Well, what shall we say of 
a liturgy? what of a Lord's Prayer, the burial service, which is 
echoed and reechoed from one end of a man's life to the other ."2 
Carlyle knew this principle. He "is full of rhythm, not only in the 
perpetual melody of his periods, but in the burdens, refrains, and 
grand returns of his sense and music ."^ "This trick of rhyme, burden, 
or refrain, which he uses so well, he not only employs in each 
new paragraph, suddenly treating you with the last ritornello , but 
in each new essay or book quoting the Burden of Chorus of the last 
book--You know me, and I know you; or, Here we are again; come take 
me up on your shoulders, --is the import of this." 4 Examples of the 
effective use of repetition Emerson finds also in the Bible, "'At 
her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he 
fell; where he bowed, there he fell down dead/ The fact is made 
conspicuous, nay, colossal, by this simple rhetoric; 'They shall 
perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like 
a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be 
changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.' "5 

To this collection of examples should be added Emerson's 

1 J ou r. VI, 279. 2 Jour . IX, 447. ^Natural History of Intellec t; 

Papers from the Dial , Past and Present . 4 Jour . VIII, 95. 5 Letter g. 
etc.; ?o etry and Imagination . 



own use of the refrain at the end of yate in Conduct o_f Life . "Let 
us build altars to the Beautiful Necessity," sounds majestically at 
intervals in the midst of the gloria which brings the essay to a 
grand finale. 

But usually, in the effort to use as simple means as pos- 
sible, Emerson seeks a style which exactly fills the mould of its 
thought. He is led to it, in part, by his seerlike tendency to 
aphorism and by his recognition of the artistic beauty of economy. 
Just as important considerations are the value of compression in ex- 
pressing either the material or the ideal or both; and its help in 
making the sentence which, though in the narrowest limits, incloses 
divinity. Disposition and theory unite, then, to make it Emerson's 
aim to bound in a nutshell the thing of infinite space. 


d. Understatement and the Superlative 

Two tendencies in Emerson's style and his theories about 
style fight one another constantly, and only truces of compromise 
and mutual adjustment make possible even intermittent peace between 
them. One is his desire for intensity of expression, his wish to 
represent unrestrained his intimations of immortal thought. The 
other tendency is his determination to express himself accurately, 
each word standing for a clearly embodied entity. The conflict comes 
from the fact that emotion recollected in tranquillity and examined 
analytically cannot be uttered with its original fervor. Each part 
may be enunciated distinctly and precisely, but the penalty for such 
adequacy in the expression of the parts is likely to be inadequacy 
in expression of the whole. The fusing heat has forever escaped and 
been lost. 

Often, but as we shall seenot always, Emerson finds his 
via media in the twofold value of that expression in which the 
superlative is avoided, even at the risk of understatement. In 
presentation of the everyday fact it is obvious that accuracy demands 
the shunning of exaggeration. At the same time in expression of the 
ideal, mildness, reticence, implication that much more could be said, 
have an effect stimulating, suggestive, symbolic--are often far mcae 
powerful, indeed, than an undammed Niagara of emotion. 

Emerson noted on his trip to Italy that the Italians use 
the superlative too much. ., A man, to tell me that t^is was the 
same thing I had before, said, ' E 1' i st essissima cosa;' and at the 


trattoria, when I asked if the cream was good, the waiter answered 
1 Stupendo'. ♦ "^ Another Latin race, the French, suffers from the 
same habit of linguistic inflation. Under the heading of The Gallic 
Co ck the Journals contain the following: "An errand boy in Prance 
is commissionaire ; a kitchen is laboratoire ; applied to is con - 
sacree ."2 But this fault, inexact use of the superlative, is not 
confined to the Italians and French, "We talk sometimes, with people 
whose conversation would lead you to supoose that they had lived in 
a museum, where all the objects were monsters and extremes. Their 
good people are phoenixes; their naughty are like the prophet's figs. 
They use the superlative of grammar: 'most perfect,' 'most exquisite,' 
'most horrible.' Like the French, they are enchanted, they are deso- 
late, because you have got or have not got a shoe-string or a wafer 
you happen to want, --not perceiving that superlatives are diminutives 
and weaken; that the positive is the sinew of speech, the superlative 
the fat. If the talker lose a tooth, he thinks the universal thaw 
and dissolution of things has come. Controvert his opinion and he 
cries 'Persecution', and reckons himself with Saint Barnabas, who was 
sqwn in two, 

" ., 'Tis very wearisome, this straining talk, these ex- 
periences all exquisite, intense and tremendous--' the best I ever 
saw;' 'I never in my life',' One wishes these terms gazetted and for- 
bidden. Every favorite is not a cherub, nor every cat a griffin, nor 
each unpleasing person a dark, diabolical intriguer; nor agonies, ex- 
cruciations nor ecstacies our daily bread." 3 

Jour . Ill, 120. 2 Jo ur . VII, 457. lectures , etc.: The Superlative . 


People who use such terms are uncivilized, uncultured; 
their intelligence is insufficiently developed and their powers of 
expression are correspondingly limited so that they are driven to 
vehemence in the vain effort to convey their ideas. They see things 
in "lumps and masses" rather than "accurately distributed", and like 
children "cry, scream and stamp with fury, unable to express" them- 
selves. The grown up individual or race puts away childish things, 
and speaks as a man. Plato is thus superior to preceding philoso- 
phers; he "needs no barbaric paint, or tattoo, or whooping; for he 
can define. He leaves with Asia the vast and superlative; he is the 
arrival of accuracy and intelligence."^- 

Accuracy in expression, whether of the actual or the ideal, 
demands a much closer approach to the fact than the hit-or-raiss su- 
perlative makes possible. Those "unskilful definers" who "from want 
of skill to convey quality, .. hope to move admiration by quan- 
tity," are doomed to disappointment. "Language should aim to des- 
cribe the fact. It is not enough to suggest it and magnify it. 
Sharper sight would indicate the true line. The first valuable 

power in a reasonable mind" is "the power of plain statement, or the 
power to receive things as they befall, and to transfer the picture 
of them to another mind unaltered. 'Tis a good rule of rhetoric whict 
Schlegel gives,--' In good prose, every word is underscored;' which I 
suppose means, never italicize."^ 

Another cause working towards the necessity of caution in 
expression is the character of language. Every part of nature by 

Representative Hen ; Plato . ^ Lectures , etc.: The Superlative . 


virtue of its relation to the pervading unity is a rounded whole. 
Yet the multitude and unbounded distribution of these units makes it 
difficult for the writer to speak of any one without neglecting the 
others. Language cannot, with entire success, imitate nature's 
ability to tell the whole truth in a particle. "Every sentence hath 
some falsehood of exaggeration in it. For the infinite diffuseness 
refuses to be epigrarnmatized, the world to be shut in in a word. The 
thought being spoken becomes by mere detachment falsely emphatic ."^ 
"It is the fault of our rhetoric th^.t we cannot strongly state one 
fact without seeming to belie some other." 2 Hence there is all the 
more need of certainty than things be presented as they are, with- 
out strain, swelling, or distortion. 

Furthermore, though nature sets the writer an impossible 
task, it gives by its own practice a hint of the desirability of 
measure in writing, especially in expression of the actual. "In 
nature there is no emphasis."^ "Nature measures her greatness by 
what she can spare, by what remains when all superfluity and ac- 
cessories are shorn of f." 4 "Nature never swears, loves temperate ex- 
pressions and sober colors, green grass, fawns and drabs, greys and 
blues and dark mixed; now and then a grim Acherontian fungus ."5 

Consequently it is not surprising that those rtio live close 
to nature and actualities and partake thereby of its characteristics 
refrain from excess in their expression. The farmer, for instance, 
has not the literary man's inclination towards "inflation", that 
"disease incident to too much use of words." He speaks only things, 

^• Jour . VI, 65. 2 Bssays I : History . 5 Jo ur . VI, 36. 
^ Lectures , etc.: The Superlative . 5 Jour . VI, 235-6. 


and is careful not to speak more things than his keenly discerning 
eyes see. "I am daily struck," Emerson declares, "with the forcible 
understatement of people who have no literary habit. The low expres- 
sion is strong and agreeable. 

"The common people diminish: "a cold snap;' 'it rains 
easy;' 'good haying weather.' When a farmer means to tell you that 
he is doing well with his farm, he says, 'I don't work as hard as I 
did, and I don't mean to.' When he wishes to condemn any treatment 
of woils or of stock, he says, 'It won't do any good.' Under the 
Catskill Mountains the boy in the steamboat said, 'Come up here, 
Tony; it looks pretty out-of-doors.' The farmers in the region do 
not call particular summits, as Killington, Camel's Hump, Saddle- 
back, etc., mountains, but only 'them 'ere rises,' and reserve the 


word mountains for the range. 

There is a similar proneness to understatement in the work 
of those authors whose gaze is fixed primarily on the common details 
of life and experience. Montaigne,, for instance, "uses the positive 
degree: never shrieks, or protests, or prays: no weakness, no con- 
vulsion, no superlative: does not wish to jump out of his skin, or 
play any antics, or annihilate space or time; but is stout and solid. 
.. He keeps the plain; he rarely mounts or sinks; likes to feel 

solid ground, and the stones underneath ,"2 Webster's oratory was 


marked by a like nearness to fact. Emerson records in his Journal^/ 
he "clings closely to the business part of his speech with great 
gravity and faithfulness. 'I do not inflame,' he said on one oc- 

^ •Lectures . etc.: The Superlative . ^Representative Men ; Montaigne 


casion, 'I do not exaggerate; I avoid all incendiary allusion.' He 
trusts to his simple strength of statement," 1 "He hugs his fact 
close, and will not let it go, and never indulges in a weak flour- 
ish, though he knows perfectly well how to make such exordiums and 
episodes and perorations as may give perspective to his harangue, 
without in the least embarrassing his plan or confounding his trans- 
itions. What is small , he shows as small, and makes the great, great 2 . 1 

Most of the advantages of the positive degree so far set 
down relate particularly to its value in expressing the actual. But 
in expression of the ideal, too, the positive degree, or even under- 
statement, has a place, perhaps the place. We have only to recall 
Emerson's belief that "the unsaid part is the best of every discourse 1 
to see why restrained language is strong language, for it hints at 
far more than it utters, and has a kind of symbolic signif icance much 
greater than its immediate denotation. " Do ctor Channing' s piety and 
wisdom," Emerson tells us, "had such weight that, in Boston, the 
popular idea of religion was whatever this eminent divine held. But 
I remember that his best friend, a man of guarded lips, speaking of 
him in a circle of his admirers, said; 'I have known him long, I 
have studied his character, and I believe him capable of virtue. 1 
An eminent French journalist paid a high compliment to the Duke of 
Wellington, when his documents were published: 'Here are twelve 
volumes of military dispatches, and the word glory is not found in 
them.'" 3 

And when the language of the ideal is direct rather than 
1 £our. VI, 341-2. 2 Jour . VI, 430-2. ^Lectures , etc.; The Superlativ i 


suggestive, it is still oh ?.ract erized by plain and unadorned simplic- 
ity. Smerson believes with Madame de Stael; "Surely all that is 
simple is sufficient for all that is good." 1 For the men who speak 
divine truth can do so only because of their own simplicity and ab- 
sence of pretension. They know that God* s voice speaks through them, 
and that their manner of expression, even what they say, is of no 
importance compared to the eternal soul in whose messages they share. 
Hence, even at the risk of seeming "frigid and phlegmatic to those 
who have been spiced with the frantic passion and violent coloring 
of inferior but popular writers", "they use the positive degree." 
They know that nothing will serve in heavenly matter save "casting 
aside ,. trappings and dealing man to man in naked truth, plain 
confession and omniscient affirmation." 2 

In spite of this utter absence of show and display in the 
writing of the genuine idealist, idealists have certain enemies who, 
by copying what they believe to be the mannerisms of the idealists' 
language, strive to be mistaken for them, and to gain credit for vir- 
tue, though they have it not. Such persons, "seeing that the senti- 
ments please, counterfeit the expression of them. These we call sen- 
timentalists, --talkers who mistake the description for the thing, say. 
ing for having. They have, they tell you, an intense love of nature; 
poetry, --0, they adore poetry, --and roses, and the moon, .and the cav- 
alry regiment, and the governor; they love liberty, 'dear liberty',' 
they worship virtue, 'dear virtue'. * Yes, they adop t what ev er merit is 
in good repute, and almost make it hateful with their praise. The 
warmer their expressions, the colder we feel; we shiver with cold," 5 

1 Jour, IV, 162-3, 2 Essays I : The Oversoul . ^Letters , etc.: Social 
Ai ms . 


Politics and religion are particularly infested toy these 
false counterparts. In the Sp eech on Af fairs in Kansas 1 Emerson thus 
exposed the sham in the words of the slavery advocates: "Language 
has lost its meaning in the universal cant. Representative Govern- 
ment is really misrepresentative; Union is a conspiracy against the 
Northern States which the Northern States are to have the privilege of 
paying for; the adding of Cuba and C entral America to the slave marts 
is enlarging th e area of Freedo m. Manifest Destiny , Democracy , Free- 
dom , fine names for an ugly thing. They call it otto of rose and 
lavender, --I call it bilge water. They call it Chivalry and Freedom; 
I call it the stealing all the earnings of a poor man and the earn- 
ings of his little girl and boy, and the earnings of all that shall 
ccme from him, his children's children forever." 

As for the superficial would-be doubles in religious mat- 
ters: "What," asks Emerson, "is so odious as the polite bows to God, 
in our books and newspapers? The popular press is flagitious in the 
exp.ct measure of its sanctimony, and the religion of the day is a 
theatrical Sinai, where the thunders are supplied by the property- 
man. "2 An^ w ith these pretenders in mind, the sincerely religious 
person will m*ke himself as unlike them as possible. If they use 
sacred names hypocritically, he will use them only when he must. 
"You cannot say God , blood , and hell too little. Always suppose God. 
The Jew named him not."** 

As much to be avoided as the pinchbeck and overdone pro- 
testations of nobility is the contrary habit of descending to laud 

^ Miscellanies . ^ English Trait s; Religion . 5 Jour . VII, 101. 


what is really unpraiseworthy . Historians especially Emerson finds 
subject to this fault; sometimes in the midst of otherwise lofty 
work he sees them kowtowing to the insignificant. He objects to 
Bancroft's "insertion of a boyish hurrah, every now and then, for 
each state in turn, which resembles the fortune of the good professor 
in Mathematics in a Southern College, who was not permitted to go on 
with his exercise on Election Day without interposing in his demon- 
stration, AB3&=GHI, Hurrah for Jackson, and so on."^- More serious is 
the case when "Histories are written, like this Eorster's (Cromwell), 
in ridiculous deference to all the lowest prejudices. The simple 
fact of being the potentate of England seems to the good scribe a 
thing so incredible and venerable that he can never allude to it 
without new astonishment, and never records a victory without new 
bows and duckings and empress era ents ."^ 

The positive degree is safe; it is exact; it may even be 
intense. The actual demands bare and precise expression; and the 
soul's messages shun grandiloquence. "Spartans, stoics, heroes, 
saints and gods use a short and positive speech." 3 y e t it would not 
be fair to say that the duplex satisfaction attained by careful re- 
pression is always agreeable to Emerson in either theory or practice. 
True, he was capable of uttering what to the orthodox of his day 
seemed heresies, in a disarming, innocent, unconcerned way: witness 
the Divinity College Address He wreaks destruction without crying 
Havoc', and his dogs of war are trained not to bay. But it is just 
as much the fact that he sometimes lets loose the reins. Pegasus is 

1 £our. IV, 304 . 2 Jour. V, 262-3. lectures , etc.: The Superlative 
^ Nature , et c . 


not always bridled; he sometimes spurns the middle road, soars aoove 
and away from it, goeth where he listeth. It may be that the sincere 
mood is strong and will vent itself, scorning the danger that an 
equally sincere contrary mood may demand cool adjudication by the 
impartial. It may be that exaggeration will serve a humorous pur- 
pose. Or it may be that the richly stored mind discloses its wealth 
in a gorgeous bazaar of infinitely varied treasures. In such cases, 
Emerson believes going to extremes justifiable. 

The first of these situations brings up the often-mooted 
question of Emerson's inconsistency, which many have fastened on him 
as a stigma, though he himself would consider the charge the highest 
praise. In his opinion only through inconsistency in the details is 
consistency in the wholes possible. The many-sided truth can never 
be altogether realized or expressed unless all its parts in turn are 
glorified by the person enthusiastic about the merits of each part, 
"If one would study his own time, it must be by this method of taking 
up in turn each of the leading topics which belong to our scheme of 
human life, and by firmly stating all that is agreeable to experience 
on one, and doing the same justice to the opposing facts in the 
others, the true limitation will appear. Any excess of emphasis on 
one part would be corrected, and a just balance would be made."^ 
Emerson's defense of Carlyle in this regard equally fits his own 
practise, and incidentally points out the danger involved in this 
kind of superlative. "Like all men of wit and great rhetorical power, 
he is by no means to be held to the paradox he utters to-day. He 

'Conduct of Life: Fate 


states it will, and overstates it, because he is himself trying how 
far it will bear him. But the novelty and luster of his language 
makes the hearers remember his opinion, and would hold him to it long 
after he has forgotten it/ 1 It is to forestall this misconception 
that Emerson issues this plain warning; "Lest I should mislead any 
when I have my own head and obey ray whims, let me remind the reader 
that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on what 
I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I pretended to 
settle anything as true or false. I unsettle all things. No facts 
are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless 
seeker with no Past at my back."2 

This investigating spirit, with its disposition to strong 
and even intense expression of its momentary enthusiastic and un- 
checked appreciation of value, Emerson supports no matter if the 
result seems to be overpraise of material things. For though mis- 
construction of such eulogy of the lower things may seem to con- 
stitue an assault on virtue, virtue cannot thereby be hurt, "Some 
of my friends have complained," says Emerson in beginning his essay 
on Wo rship ft, " ,, that we discussed Pate, Power and V/ealth on too 
low a platform; gave too much line to the evil spirit of the times; 
too many cakes to Cerberus; that we ran Cudworth's risk of making, by 
excess of candor, the argument of atheism so strong that he could not 
answer it. I have no fears of being forced in my own despite to play 
as we say the devil's attorney. I have no infirmity of faith; no 
belief that it is of much importance what I or any man may say; I am 

1 £our # VII, 367, 2 Essays I; Circles . Conduct of Life . 

^ = ___ = _______^^ 


sure that a certain truth will be said through ine, though I should 
be dumb, or though I should try to say the reverse. Nor do I fear 
skepticism for any good soul. A just thinker will allow full swing 
to his skepticism, I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I am 
not afraid of falling into my inkpot. I have no sympathy with a poor 
man I knew, who, when suicides abounded, told me^e dared not look 
at his razor. We are of different opinions at different hours, but 
v/e always may be said to be at heart on the side of truth." 

In this case, as in all such, overstatement has the ad- 
vantage that it makes possible the eventual telling of the whole 
truth, "If the Divine Providence has hid from men neither disease 
nor deformity nor corrupt society, but has stated itself out in 
passions, in war, in trade, in the love of power and pleasure, in 
hunger and need, in tyrannies, literatures and arts, --let us not be 
so nice that we cannot write these facts down coarsely as they stand, 
or doubt but there is a count er- statement as ponderous, which we can 
arrive at, and which, being put, will make all square."^ 

The superlative may serve justifiably another purpose, 
that of humor. "The superlative, so dreary in dull people, in the 
hands of wit gives a fillip or shock most agreeable to the attention, 
and hints at poetic power. "^ The "weak and wearisome lie" is "very 
different from the stimulus to the fancy which i3 given by a 

romancing talker who does not mean to be exactly taken, --like the 
gallant skipper who complained to his owners that he had pumped the 
Atlantin Ocean three times through his ship on the passage, and 

Conduct cf Life : Worship . 2 Jour . IX, 499. 


♦tiros coramon to strike seals and porpoises in the hold. Or what was 
similarly asserted of the late Lord Jeffrey, at the Scottish barm- 
an attentive auditor declaring on one occasion after an argument of 
three hours, that he had spoken the whole English language three timet 
over in his speech. 1 * 1 Examples of this kind of exaggeration occur 
in Emerson's own writing when he hits at the narrow sectarians who, 

as he says, "dress up that terrific benefactor (Providence) in a 


clean shirt and white neckcloth of a student in divinity;*' 1 ' and when 
he tells us that the scientist M has got all snakes and lizards in 
his phials, but science has done for him also, and has put the man 
in a bottle." 5 

Emerson, finally, has some praise for those writers whose 
breadth of intellect was such as to give them the right to use the 
style waich is adorned, exuberant, or even violent, though he finds 
"few specimens of" such "magnificence. Plato is the purple ancient, 
and Bacon and Kilton the moderns of the richest strains. Burke some- 
times reaches to that exuberant fulness, though deficient in depth ."^ 
"Clarendon alone among the English authors (though I think I see the 
love of Clarendon in Burke) has successfully transplanted the Italian 
superlative style." "Carlyle, in his strange, half-mad way, has 
entered the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and shown a vigor and wealth 
of resource which has no rival in the tourney-play of these times; 
the indubitable champion of England ."6 

iLec bur es , etc.: The Superlative . ^ Condu ct of Life : Eat e . 
3Co nduct of Life : Beauty .. ^Natural Hi story of Intellect : Papers 
from the Dial , Past and Present . 5 Jour . IV, 269, ^Natural History 
of Intellect ; Papers from the Dial , Past and Present. 


Emerson, however, was never quite satisfied that the 
extravagance and vehemence of Carlyle' s style was altogether pardon- 
able or necessary. He does see palliations, of course. "You v/ill 
say," he writes to Carlyle, "no rules for the illumination of win- 
dows can apply to the Aurora Borealis." 1 And he makes the excuse 
for Carlyle that "in all his fun of castanets, of playing of tunes 
with a whiplash like some renowned chariot eers, --in all this glad and 
needful venting of his redundant spirits, he does yet, ever and anon, 
as if catching the glance of one wise man in the crowd, quit his 
tempestuous key, and lance at him in clear, level tone the very word, 
and then with new glee return to his game. He is like a lover or an 
outlaw who wraps up his message in a serenade, which is nonsense to 
the sentinel, but salvation to the ear for which it is meant But 
more often his attitude is in consonance with idaat we have discovered 
to be his central position with regard to style; simplicity in all 
expression, whether of the actual or the spiritual. "There is the 
Periclean and there is the Slam-bang style. Carlyle, the merit 
of glass is not to be seen, but to be seen through; but every cry- 
stal and lamina of the Carlyle glass is visible."^ And in more 
direct apostrophe, Emerson delivered himself thus: "I comprehend not 
why you should lavish in that spendthrift style of yours celestial 
truths. .. I look for the hour with impatience when the vehicle 
will be worthy of the spirit ,-- then the word will be as simple, and 
so as resistless as the thought , --and, in short, rten your words will 
be one with things." 4 

^.E. Corr . I, 131. Natural History of Intellect ; Papers from the 
pial .Past and Present . . S jpur . VII, 216. 4c .E. Corr . I, 15-16. 


There are occasions when precision gives way to an ecstasy 
which "plays with all the works of nature, great or minute, galaxy or 
grain of dust, as toys and words of the mind" when the enthusiastic 
emotion overleaps the hurdles of caution; when humor scorns the nice 
fact; when the wealthy in mind are generous with their expression. 
But adequacy comes more often through the simple positive speech, 
wMch is one with things, whether seen or unseen, temporal or eternal 

"To clothe the fiery thought 
In simple words succeeds, 
For still the craft of genius is 
To mask a king in weeds." 2 

^ Lectures , etc.; The Superlative . %>o ems 




Emerson's pages often bristle with quotations which, though 
they tend in the same direction as his own thought, suggest rather 
the sedulous Burton than the inspired sage. But as parallels and 
seeming sources of an Emersonian doctrine increase in number, the 
likelihood grows that, after all, he has a native right to the doc- 
trine in question. For it was his habit to read literature not with 
an eye to the novelties which others might have to offer, out look- 
ing rather for support and illustration of his original beliefs. 
In an inquiry concerning the germination and growth of his theories 
of style, therefore, it is, strictly speaking, not so much sources 
that are to be sought, as the encouragements of predisposition. 

Our examination of influences falls into two parts: (l) the 
causes and development of Emerson's high regard for the symbol; (2) 

the causes leading to the squaring of this regard with admiration of 


a simple, idiomatic, compressed and repressed- -and/all living style. 

The difference in Emerson's mature attitude toward the 
symbol from his earlier attitude and from that of most writers is 
that he considers the figure as having a spiritual life and reality 
of its own, and does not regard it as merely an imaginative identi- 
fication of one thing with another for purely literary, artistic 
purposes. He sees between the mental and the physical not an ac- 
cidental but a divinely purposed analogical import, which results 
from his belief that nature and experience--all material things-- 
are the language of spirit. As a consequence of these conceptions, 


he desires in the symbol an intimate blending of the actual and the 
ideal, of spiritual truth with corporeal accuracy. 

This attitude is the result of ideal or transcendental 
dualism. In seeing the causes of Emerson's high esteem of the symbol, 
then, it is necessary to look first for the origins of his dualism, 
and to notice also, as we proceed, the influences which were exerted 
upon it, 

Emerson was a Platonist not by books, but by birth. "As 
a boy, he had rejoiced in Berkeley's idealism, and the poems of the 
holy Herbert. His mind was naturally enamored, not only, as he 
said, of moral perfection, but of differences between the physical 
and the divine. At the age of 21, at least five years before 
Coleridge had acquainted him with the distinction between the Under- 
standing and the Reason, he estimates his fitness for the ministry 
on grounds which show that he draws the distinction though he knows 
nothing of Kant and his nomenclature. "I have, or had, a strong 
imagination, and consequently a keen relish for the beauties of 
poetry, .. My reasoning power is proportionately weak, nor can I 
ever hope to write a Butler's Analogy or an Essay of Hume. Nor is 
Lt strange that with this confession I should choose theology, which 
is from everlasting to everlasting 'debateable ground.' For, the 
lighest species of reasoning upon divine subjects is rather the 
fruit of a sort of moral imagination, than of the 'Reasoning Mchines,' 
Buch as Locke and Clarke and David Hume. Dr. Channing' s Dudleian 
Lecture is the model of what I mean, and the faculty which produced 

L English Traits , 323-4. 

L_ . , . 


this is akin to the higher flights of the fancy. I may add that the 
preaching most in vogue at the present day depends chiefly on im- 
agination for its success, and asks those accomplishments which I 
believe are within my grasp 

The mind of religious and imaginative cast, with a ten- 
dency to draw a line between the things of sense and logic and 
those of the more lofty intuitions, will soon see the literary 
value and importance of the symbol. Several records in the journals 
written during Emerson 1 s college years make plain his recognition 
of its worth. In poetry he sees an elevated expression of the 
passions revealed especially in their "tendency .. to clothe 
fanciful views of objects in beautiful language;" a tendency which 
"seems to consist in the pleasure of finding out a connection be- 
tween a material image and a moral sentiment." The relation be- 
tween science and poetry is that "Science penetrates the sky, 
and Poetry grasps at its striking phenomena and combines them with 
the moral sentiment which they naturally suggest ."^ And this re- 
lation, Emerson notes, the philosopher takes advantage of to make 
himself understood. He "who speculates on mind and character" cannot 
hope to be intelligible "until he borrows the emphatic imagery of 
sense 3 ;" he must possess the "philosophic imagination", for "moral 
reflections are vague and fugitive, whereas the most vulgar mind can 
readily retain a striking image from the material world. 

Emerson needed no outside influence to make him perceive 
the value of figures of speech to poet, philosopher, and preacher as 

1 Jour. I, 361. 2 Jo ur . I, 105. 3 Jour. I, 347-8. 4 Jpur. I, 323-4 

th e means by which they might embody abstractions. No contemporary, 
but a long line of spiritual -minded forebears had planted the seed 
of idealism which Berkeley and Channing had caused to sprout. An 
external force, however, was needed to enabl e him to realize fully 
the consequences of the relation between the moral and mental on the 
one hand, and the physical on the other. He saw a philosophical and 
religious division between these, and a stylistic connection; but he 
did not put the two conceptions together. He saw only an artistic 
correspondence between high thoughts and the objects of nature. At 
the age of 17, it is true, he was pleased by Chateaubriand's saying 
that "the universe is the imagination of the diety made manifest;"^ 
but only the fact that he repeats this quotation sixteen years later 2 
suggests that the thought of this kind of kinship between God and 
nature must have lingered in his mind. He certainly made no immediate 
application of it to language. His attitude toward figures of speech 
is rather that of his contemporaries toward the floridity so common 
in the sermons and orations of the day. The gaudy or elegant tropes 
of Everett or of Buckminster stimulated his esthetic or dramatic 
rather than his spiritual sensibilities, 

New light came from a little book, published in 1326, Ob - 
servations on the Growth of the Mind . It was an unpretentious primer 
of Swedenborgianism by Sampson Reed, a Boston druggist; clear in 
style but undistinguished except for a quiet sincerity of tone, some- 
times heightened to a poetic warmth. It bears in thought an obvious 
relationship to Emerson's first Nature , but it lacks the glow and 

1 Jpur. I, 13. 2 Jour. IV, 76. 



fervor of that essay. It made a profound impression upon Emerson, 
"a revelation, such is the wealth and such is the novelty of the 
truth unfolded in it. " 1 This high opinion of the book continued. 
In October, 1826, a month after the entry in the journals just cited, 
he writes to his aunt asking her why she does not like the book, 
"The Sunday after it came out, Dr. Channing delivered a discourse 
obviously founded on it."* j n 1834 Emerson recommended the book to 
James Preeman Clarke^ and to Carlyle, and in fact sent Carlyle a 
copy. 4 In 1836, he writes to his brother William that the contents 
of his book Nature "will not exceed in bulk Sampson Reed* s 'Growth 
of the Mind. 1 " 5 

"Has any modern hand touched the harp of great nature so 
rarely? Has any looked so shrewdly into the subtile and concealed 
connection of man and nature, of earth and heaven?" 6 These questions, 
in which Emerson communicated his enthusiasm about the book to his 
Aunt Mary, suggest the kind of new truths he found in it. It enabled 
him to link the earthly and the heavenly in addition to discriminat- 
ing between them; and thus furnished him with a spiritual explanation 
and justification of the use of the symbol. Three sentences from 
The Growth of the Mind will make plain the identity of its ideas on 
this point with those that Emerson later expressed, "By poetry is 
meant all those illustrations of truth by natural imagery, which 
spring from the fact, that this world is the morror of him who made 
it." "Finding a resting-place in every created object," imagination 

1 Jour. II, 116-7. 2 Jour . II, 124. 5 Jo ur . II, 116 Note. 
4 £. !• Corr . I. 16. Memoir I. 259. 6 Jour . II, 124. 


"will enter into it to explore its hidden treasures, the relation 
in which it stands to mind and reveal the love it bears to its Cre- 
ator," "When there shall be a religion which shall see God in every- 
thing at all times; and the natural sciences, not less than nature 
itself, shall be regarded in connection with him; the fire of 
poetry will begin to be kindled in its immortal part, and will burn 
without consuming," These conceptions are exactly consonant with 
Emerson's beliefs that nature is God's language as well as man's; 
that every part of nature is divinely significant; and that science^ 
is valuable only because of its spiritual affinities. 

Thus Swedenborg, through Sampson Reed, changed Emerson's 
attitude toward the symbol. Evidence of this is furnished by the 
contrast between the ideas just expressed and those that Emerson 
himself set down a few months before he had read The Growth of the 
Mind . Wordsworth's poetry is the subject of discussion, Emerson 
compares his philosophy of poetry with "the undisciplined enterprizes 
of intellect in the middle age;" the attempts to extort the secrets 
of nature by alchemy, for instance, "Not otherwise this modern 
poet ,. has discarded that modesty under whose influence all his 
great precursors have resorted to external nature sparingly for 
illustration and ornament, and have forborne to tamper with the 
secret and metaphysical nature of what they borrowed, , , He can't 
be satisfied with feeling the general beauty of a moonlight evening, 
or of a rose. He would pick them to pieces and pounce on the 
pleasurable element he is sure is in them, like the little boy who 
cut open his drum to see what made the noise. The worthy gentleman 
gloats over a bulrush, moralizes on the irregularity of one of its 


fibres, and suspects a connection between an excrescence of the plant 
and its own immortality. Is it not much more conformable to that 
golden middle line in which all that is good and wise of life lies, 
to let what Heaven made small and casual remain the objects of a 
notice small and casual, and husband our admiration for images of 
grandeur in matters or in mind?"l 

This neo-classical view is totally at variance with that 
of Sampson Reed and that of the transcendental Emerson, External 
nature is to them the source of all that is holy in poetry. In their 
opinion, every object in nature, no matter how small, deserves atten- 
tion; it is the duty of imagination to "enter into it to explore its 
hidden treasures," as Reed expresses it. What a change Reed has 
wrought is evident in what, five years later, Emerson said regarding 
Wordsworth's Dion_: "Are not things eternal exactly in the proportion 
in which they enter inward into nature; eternal according to their 
iriness? "^ 

Early in 1827, the next year after the publication of The 
Growth pf the Mind . Emerson uses for the first time the term Trans* 
c endentalism , calling it one of the "peculiarities of the present 
age." He defines it thus; "Metaphysics and Ethics look inwards--and 
France produces Mad, de Stael; England, Wordsworth; America, Sampson 
Reed; as well as Germany, Swedenborg,"2 The omission of Kant in such 
a list is curious, especially as Emerson had read Madame de Stael 1 s 
Germany and had made extracts from it in November 1826, ^ Later, in 

X Jour . II, 105-110. 2 Jour . II, 429. 2 Jour. II, 164. 
4 Jour. II, 129. 


the lecture called The Transcendent alist^ Emerson gave Kant full 
credit as the father of transcendentalism and the popularizer of the 
term. There is no doubt, however, that at this time and later 
Emerson thought of the transcendental symbol as primarily exempli- 
fied by Swedenborg. "I am glad you like Sampson Reed," he writes to 
Carlyle in 1834. " Swedenborgianism has many points of attractio; l 

for you ., for" the Swedenborgians "esteem, in common with all the 
Trismegisti, the Natural World as strictly the symbol or embodiment 
of the spiritual. w ^ in 1842, the journals contain this record; *1 
began to write of poetry and was driven at once to think of Sweden- 
borg as the person who, of all the men in the recent ages, stands 
eminently for the translator of Nature into thought."^ And in the 
lecture on Poetry and Imagi nation 4 occurs a passage which is its own 
best commentary on the criticism previously quoted regarding Words- 
worth's tendency not to go to Nature sparingly for illustration of 
thought; "I count the genius of Swedenborg and Wordsworth as the 
agents of a reform in philosophy, the bringing poetry back to 
nature,— to the marrying of nature and mind, undoing the old divorce 
in which poetry had been famished and false, and nature had been 
suspected and pagan." Yet until Emerson read Sampson Reed, nature 
had been for him suspected and pagan, especially in the poems of 
Wordswo rth . 

Some contribution to Emerson's conception of the symbol 
came from Jeffrey's Edinburgh 5 -eview of Alison on Taste . Emerson 
noted in 1823 that the review "gives an excellent condensed view"® 

%ature , etc. 2 C. E. Corr . I, 32. 5 Jo ur . VI, 185. ^ Letter s, etc. 
5 v. iii 6 Jour. I, 293. 


of Alison's theory. Jeffrey and Alison were far from being trans- 
cendentalists, but they did believe that beauty in poetry is pro- 
duced by associating ideas with the objects of cuter nature. That 
Emerson took one step farther and converted this to transcendental 
purposes is shown by a paragraph in the journals of 1832. "A strange 
poem is Zoroastrism. It is a system as separate and harmonious and 
sublime as Swedenborgianisrn-- congruent . One would be glad to behold 
the truth which they all shadow forth. For it cannot but be truth 
that they typify and sumbolize. . , One sees in this, and in them 
all, the element of poetry according to Jeffrey's true theory, the 
effect produced by making every thing outward only a sign of some- 
thing inward; Plato's forms or ideas which seem almost tantamount 
to the Ferouers of Zo roaster 

More direct seems to have been Jeffrey's offering to an- 
other aspect of Emerson's theory of language. Emerson says in his 
chapter on L anguag e in Nature : "Every word which is used to rep- 
resent a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is 
found to be borrowed from some material appearance." Jeffrey says 
in his review of Alison: "Almost all the words by which the affec- 
tions of the mind are expressed, seem to have been borrowed origin- 
ally from the qualities of matter." Of course, Emerson may have 
arrived at the idea independently, or he may have got it from other 
sources: Plato's Cratylus as Professor Harrison declares^; or'the 
chapter on the Symbol in Sartor Resartus . On the other hand the 
verbal parallelism of the two sentences quoted may be significant. 

Jour. II, 473-4, The. Teachers of_ Emerson 


There are many indications that interest in the symbol is 
an inevitable outcome of transcendentalism. We have just mentioned 
the chapter in Sarto r . Another example is Alcott's practical ap- 
plication of the symbol to young children's education, commented on 
with approval by Emerson. 1 But so far as Emerson is concerned, these 
are not to be regarded as influential, except insofar as the en- 
couragement comes from the agreement of others in his already formed 
ideas. For both these examples are of later date 2 than passages in 
the journals w ich show unmistakably his belief in the correlation 
of nature and language. In 1851, perhaps before he had read Carlyle 
at all, except for the translation of Wilhelm H eist er» 3 he expressed 
his desire "to get the abstract sense of which mountains, sunshine, 
thunders, night, birds and flowers are the sublime alphabet," and to 
"translate the fair and magnificent symbols into their own senti- 
ments . "4 

Pour years later he was much interested in a book by a 
minor French philosopher, Oegger, Many pages in the journals for 
1835, the year before the publication of Nature , contain quotations 
from Oegger' s The True Messiah , or the Old and Hew Testaments ex - 
amined according to the Principl es of the Languag e of Nature . The 
translator was Miss Elizabeth Peabody, who helped to teach Alcott»s 
school in which the symbol formed the starting-point of instruction. 
"Why the world exists, and that it exists for a language or medium 

1 Jour. Ill, 509. 2 1835 and 1832-3 respectively. Carlyle 

makes his first appearance in the Journals (II, 515) October 1, 1832, 

as "my Germanick new-light writer, whoever he be." 4j ur m jj t 384-5 


whereby God may speak to man, this is his query, this his answer," 
is Emerson's summary of the book, 1 The chapter on Language in 
Nature parallels Oegger' s contention that the voice of Nature is the 
voice of God, and includes a direct quotation from him; "Material 
objects are necessarily kinds of scoriae of the substantial thoughts 
of the Creator." 2 To Oegger Emerson is indebted, not only for this 
quotation, but also for his psychological argument in the chapter 
to the effect that symbols are the constant mental accompaniment of 
high thought. "I must scribble on," he writes, "if it were only to 
say in confirmation of Oegger' s doctrine that I believe I never take 
a step in thought without some material symbol of my proposition 
figuring itself incipiently at the same time."** But so far as 
Oegger' s principal thesis is concerned, Emerson had, as we have seen, 
read, approved, and adopted a like theory as expressed in Sampson 
Reed's little volume. 

More difficult to follow with definiteness is the direct 
influence of Plato on Emerson's conception of the symbol. Sweden- 
borg draws on Plato of course, as do all the other mystics, and we 
shall see soon an important Platonic influence through the medium of 
Coleridge. But direct and specific references are not frequent, and 
it seems likely that in these cases Emerson is adducing a parallel 
rather than indicating a source. Of this character appears to be 
his connection of the figure of the cave in the Republic with his 
own attitude toward symbols, shown in the quotation already given 
concerning Zoroaster and Jeffrey; and the same kind of relationship 

1 Jour. Ill, 525. 2 Jo ur. Ill, 513. 3 Jour. Ill, 527. 


is likely to account for his mention, in the essay on Plato in 
Representative Men, of the analogy of the divided line. Though 
there are many points of similarity between Emerson's ideas and 
Plato's, and many cases of direct borrowing, since Emerson took what 
he wished where he found it, it seems likely that with regard to the 
symbol, at least, Plato's dualism had on Emerson's conceptions only 
a general influence. 

Prom Wordsworth Emerson gained assistance in regarding the 
yellow primrose as something more than a primrose, though Sampson 
Reed had to intervene before he was converted from an early hostile 
attitude. From Wordsworth, also, his interest in idiomatic language 
may have received stimulation. Both Wordsworth's Preface and Plato's 
Republic may have something to do with his belief that the simple 
life, close to Nature, is best for the poet, But for this his Aunt 
Mary probably deserves as much credit, i'or in a letter dated 1823 
he says that his aunt "was anxious that her nephew might hold high 
and reverent notions regarding it (nature) as the temple where God 
and the mind are to be studied and adored, and where the fiery sould 
can begin a premature communication with the other wo rid. w ^ His 
personal experience also led in the same direction. It caused him 
to believe in his aunt's prescription of nature as a source of in- 
spiration, for he writes that his brain had been supplied "with 
several bright fragments of thought" and that he had come to believe 
that "mind as well as body respired more freely here.' 1 ** Later 
vacation trips in the wilds had an even stronger effect, for at these 

iMempir: I, 97. 2 Ibid. 

* * 


times he went into the woods impressed by a theoretical conviction 
of the close correlation of God and nature. Finally, his life in 
Concord, as has been shown in the chapter on the Symbol , led to a 
veritable ecstasy of communion with nature, with the effect of an 
emocitional heightening of his style. 

Influence of a general kind came from two other quarters; 
Madame de Stael and Coleridge. Madame de Stael's Germany gave him 
his first literary knowledge of the German philosophers, including 
Kant; and her whole attitude is such as to cause Emerson to rank 
her, as we have seen, as the French exemplar of transcendentalism; 
and to place her among his favorite authors. 

Coleridge he read with enthusiasm three years later, in 
1829. From him he gained, if not the important conception, at least 
the important nomenclature, involved in the distinction between the 
Reason and the Understanding, The interaction of this distinction 
with his theory of style has been evident many times in these pages, 
for the Reason, being the ideal part of the mind, is the symbol-per- 
ceiving faculty. 

Professor Harrison in The Teachers of Emerscnn offers noth- 
ing more important than the specific evidence that Coleridge's Fri end 
is probably responsible in some degree for Emerson's attitude toward 
science. Emerson regarded natural laws as parallel with spiritual, 
and it is Professor Harrison's contention that Coleridge, who brings 
to his aid Plato and Bacon, had helped to make this Emerson's opinion 
Of course, so far as Bacon is concerned, Emerson may have gained the 
notion independently of Coleridge, for youthful enthusiasm gave him 
a thorough acquaintance with Bacon, and he may then have noted the 
Baconian examples of analogies between physical and mental or moral 

-20 6- 

laws, which appear in the criticism on Bacon in English Tr aits , in 
connection with discussion of the prima philosophia . Whatever 
Coleridge's influence may have been in this direction, it is certain 
that De Ge'rando's Hi stoire Comparee des Syst ernes t which Emerson 
studied in 1830, reminded him of his early reading in Bacon, "leads 
me in the outset back to Bacon, "1 as he says. And it is equally sure 
that the first mention of the prima philosophia , of which these 
analogies are examples, occurs in the notes which he took on De 
GeVando's compilation. That Sampson Reed may also be partly re- 
sponsible for Emerson's poetical point of view toward science we 
have already seen in Reed ! s wish that "the natural sciences, as well 
as Nature itself, should be seen in connection with" God, valued 
for their spiritual intimations. In any case, it was in the latter 
part of 1830, after he had read both The Friend and the Histoire 
Compared , when Emerson, being "more and more impressed," as the 
editors of the Journals say, "that Nature spoke by parables, .. 
began to read books on science with keen interest." 2 The strength 
of the interest appears in the fact that his earliest lectures and 
his latest involved natural history, both of the outer world and of 
the intellect. 

Associated with this interest in science and partly de- 
rived from the same sources in Coleridge, Bacon, and De Ge'rando, is 
the Each and All theory, which is concerned with the underlying cause 
of the correlation between spiritual and material laws. According 
to both Coleridge and Bacon this is a " sup ersensual essence," which, 

II, 330. 2 Jour. II, 365 Note 


Coleridge says, Plato has shown to be the "ground of the coincidence 
between reason and experience; or between the laws of matter and the 
ideas of the pure intellect. "^ Coleridge may also have suggested to 
Emerson that the laws of this spiritual essence were equivalent to 
the laws of Bacon's i'irst Philosophy, since, as Prof essor Harrison 
has pointed out, Coleridge contrasts Plato's philosophic system with 
Bacon's scientific theory. 2 It is more likely, however, that De 
Gerando is responsible, for reasons stated in the preceding para- 
graph. It is interesting to note that having quoted Bacon's defin- 
ition of the prima philosophia from De Gerando, Emerson comments; 
"By this I understand that generalization which gives the elevation 
to all the writings of Burke, of De Stael, and now of Sampson Reed. "3 

The principle controlling the relation between matter and 
spirit, and the laws of each, makes it possible--so Plato, Bacon, 
Coleridge, Emerson, and De Ge'rando believe--to classify spiritually 
all material facts, to see identity in variety. Emerson is fond of 
the phrase il. piu nell 'uno . "'the many in one,' or multitude in 
unity, intimating that what is truly beautiful seems related to all 
nature, "4 He defines the purpose of Art as the showing of this re- 
lation. But the Each and All theory not only provides a means of 
classification; it makes possible a magnificent generalization from 
single and unconnected instances. And thus Emerson is equally in- 
terested in showing that "All is in Each," that spiritual complete- 
ness is inherent in every material particle. One sentence from the 

^ The Frien d II Quoted by J. S. Harrison: The Teach ers of Emerson . 
2 The Teach ers of Emerson . 5 Jour . II, 331. %atural History of 
Intellect : Mi chael Angelo . 


essay on Swedenborg in Representative Men gives so many parallels 
of this idea that the likelihood of any one or perhaps even all of 
them together being a source is thereby diminished. "The ancient 
doctrine of Hippocrates, that the brain is a gland; and of Leucippus, 
that the atom may be known by the mass; or, in Plato, the macrocosm 
by the microcosm; and, in the verses of Lucretius, 

'The principle of all things, entrails made 

Of smallest entrails; bone, of smallest bone; 

Blood, of small sanguine drops reduced to one; 

Gold, of small grains; earth, of small sands compacted 

Small drops to water, sparks to fire contracted; 1 
and which Malpighi had summed in his maxim that 'nature exists entire 
in leasts,' is a favorite thought of Swedenborg." 

These philosophic and scientific ideas are worked into 
Emerson's theory of style as a result of the religious revolt against 
dogmatism and fossilized divinity which marked the years from 1820 
to 1840 in New England. Though Emerson as a youth believed his 
vocation to be rightly the Christian Church, as early as 1824 he 
writes an imaginary letter to Plato in which he expresses his oelief 
that the Bible, though inspired, is not inspiration itself. "I con- 
fess it has not for me the same exclusive and extraordinary claims 
it has for may, I hold Reason to be a prior Revelation and that 
they do not contradict one another. "1 Sampson Reed strengthens his 
independence by assuring him that the divine message may be read 
in every part of nature at all times. And it is notable that in 

Jour . I, 386. 


September 1826, just after he had read The Growth of the Mind for the 
first time, he writes thus to his aunt: "It is one of the feelings 
of modern philosophy that it is wrong to regard ourselves so much 
in an historical light as we do, --putting time between God and us,-- 
and that it were fitter to regard every moment of the existence of 
the universe as a new creation, and all as a revelation proceeding 
each moment from the Divinity to the mind of the observer." 3. This 
belief grew stronger when Emerson had given up the ministry, and 
was confirmed through other influences contributing to self-reliance 
already detailed in the chapter on Method . The result of the 
application of this conviction to writing is to make the journals 
more and more the record of intense moments. In each of these momen- 
tary impressions, Emerson grew to believe that divine unity was con- 
tained. Thus the philosophical and scientific aspects of the Each 
and All theory merged with the religious belief that God revealed 
himself at all times to every man in every part of nature and ex- 
perience. The manifold effects of this on Emerson's theories of 
diction and method have been sufficiently touched on elsewhere in 
these pages . 

Swedenborg, though in large measure responsible for bring- 
ing this theory in both scient if icand religious aspects to Emerson's 
attention, did not himself apply it flexibly. He regarded each part 
of nature as fixedly meaning just one spiritual truth. Emerson, on 
the other hand, regarded every part as interchangeable with every 
other, because ill parts share the divine unity; and thus he con- 

Memoir I, 159-60 . 

sidered each part as open to an endless variety of symbolic inter- 
pretations. Hence the Each and All theory becomes of primary 
importance in connection with Emerson's devotion to a living, breath- 
ing, modern style, which is at the same time spiritual because sym- 
bolic. If God reveals himself in every moment in every part of 
Nature, the writer's object must be to distill the spiritual life 
of any particular moment in a unique symbol. But if the same object 
in another equally inspired moment suggests other divine truth, the 
process of capturing the moment alive may be repeated with just as 
important results. 

The religious and literary independence of attitude which 
characterizes transcendentalism thus makes it possible for the 
writer to utilize any object in nature, no matter how small, common, 
and unregarded, and to find in it spiritual significance. And it is 
in this way that the Each and All theory justifies use of the ordin- 
ary objects of life, experience, and nature, and makes desirable a 
style which is both simple and alive. It comes into alignment, in 
ways examined in detail elsewhere, with admiration of the style which 
is idiomatic, compact, and suggestively moderate. 

Emerson's devotion to these qualities, however, is not 
altogether dependent on the doctrine of Each and All, but is an 
effect, to some extent parallel with it, of the general encourage- 
ment to individualism which transcendentalism offers. Transcenden- 
talism asserts that every man, through his personal share of inspir- 
ation, hears God's voice. It gives him, therefore, self-reliance to 
deliver the divine message in a manner obviously his and no one 
else's. It causes the writer to throw away allegiance to rhetorical 


textbooks and conventionalized judgements of literature, Emerson 
speaks of "that barren season of discipline which young men spend 
with the Aikens and Ketts and Drakes and Blairs; acquiring the false 
doctrine that there is something arbitrary or conventional in let- 
ters, something else in style than the transparent medium through 
which we should see new pjid good thoughts." Accordingly, trans- 
cendental individualism makes for distinctiveness and may make for 
distinction in style. It produces a style which tries to come close 
to the writer's own mind, and aims at phonographic reproduction of 
its ecstacy, its violence, its calmness, its humor, its seriousness, 
its holiness, or whatever its mood may be. Carlyle' s style, for 
instance, defies and disregards conventions and gives us the 
tumultuous, dyspeptic, dead in earnest, irrepressible rough rider him- 
self. It is a living style, exactly the kind which Carlyle describes 
in his review of Richter. 2 It is Carlyle' s conviction "that the out- 
ward style is to be judged of by the inward qualities of the spirit 
which it is employed to body forth; that without prejudice to crit- 
ical propriety well understood, the former ms.y vary into many shapes 
as the latter varies; that, in short, the grand point for a writer 
is not to be of this or that external make and fashion, but, in every 
fashion, to be genuine, vigorous, alive--alive with his whole being, 
consciously, and for beneficent results." 

Person, too, sought individual expression, but in his case 
the uniqueness desired is the result of a careful attempt to arrive 

^M emoir 1 , 2 34 - 5 . 2 ',/o rks of Thomas Carlyle Centenary Edition Crit - 


and Mi scellaneous Essays v . i . Jean P aul Fri e drich Ri chter . 


at unusual symbols, to use the commonest objects in uncommon ways, 
to extract, even to extort from the familiar a new indication of the 
underlying identity. And he, too, wishes life, but in his case vi- 
tality grows out of his effort to make the spiritual thought pal- 
pitant with the nervous action, the breathing, the pulsation of the 
material thing, he wishes to transfer to the realm of the ideal 
imagination the corporeal definiteness and constant stirring vitality 
of nature, "Cut these words and they would bleed; they are vascular 
and alive," he says of Montaigne's style; and the same cauld be said 
of much of his own writing. 

Montaigne, indeed, has a style compounded of the elements 
which Emerson most admired. Delight in Montaigne' s expression appears 
in the essay in Representati ve Men , where Emerson notes its close- 
ness to life and experience as revealed in its conversational and 
positive character. But to Montaigne he owes more than stylistic 
example; he found in his essays also direct exposition of stylistic 
qualities. In 1834 he writes in his journal; "Glad to read in my 
old gossip Montaigne some robust rules of rhetoric; I will have a 
chapter thereon in my book,"^ And he gives us a reference which en- 
ables us to discover the rules in question. 

Montaigne, in that essay which perhaps more than any other 
of his should be called Upon Every thing in General , but which bears 
a title that gives just as much excuse for rambling, Upon Some Verses 
of Vi rgil , happens at the moment to be speaking of the language of 
Virgil and Lucretius, and is led from that to set forth his stylistic 

1 Jour. Ill, 272. 


opinions. He speaks -first of his liking for an expression which is 
sinewy, compressed, and continuously aphoristic; "Their language is 
downright, and full of natural and continued vigor; they are all 
epigram; not only the tail, but the head, body, and feet. There is 
nothing forced, nothing languishing, but everything keeps the same 
pac e; - 

'Contextus totus virilis est; non sunt circa flosculos 
occupati . ' 

'Tis not a soft eloquence, and without offence only; 'tis nervous 
and solid, that does not so much please, as it fills and ravishes the 
greatest minds." 

This constantly extraordinary style, Montaigne then says, 
is the result of deep and vigorous thinking, and is, because of its 
origin, effective conno tatively as well as denotatively. "This paint • 
ing is not so much carried on by dexterity of hand as by having the 
object more vividly imprinted in the soul. Gallus speaks simply be- 
cause he conceives simply: Horace sees farther and more clear- 
ly into things; his mind breaks into and rummages all the magazine 
of words and figures wherewith to express himself, and he must have 
them more than ordinary, because his conception is so. Plutarch says 
tha.t he sees the Latin tongue by the things; 'tis here the same; the 
sense illuminates and produces the words, no more words of air, but 
of flesh and bone; they signify more than they say." 

Finally, Montaigne makes the point that writers of this 
kind attain their end in style not by neologisms but by an original 
use of everyday materials. "The handling and utterance of fine wits 
is that which sets off language; not so much by innovating it, as by 


putting it to more vigorous and varied services, and by straining, 
bending, and adapting it to them. They do not create words, but they 
enrich their own, and give them weight and signification by the uses 
they put them to, and teach them unwonted motions. . , There is 
stuff enough in our language, but there is a defect in cutting out; 
for there is nothing that might not be made out of our terms of hunt- 
ing and war, which is a fruitful soil to borrow from; and forms of 
speaking, like herbs, improve and grow stronger by being transplanted 

A tight, sustained, nervous style, suggestive because vital 
a style which makes deliberately unusual use of the common and the 
idiomatic-- there could hardly be a better statement of Emerson's 
stylistic aims. The early date of the journal reference to these 
"rules of rhetoric," 1834, suggests that Montaigne thus became Emer- 
son's preceptor not only--as has been said in the chapter on Method- - 
in the matter of self-reliant writing on the basis of personal ex- 
perience, but also with regard to specific qualities of diction. 

Before this time Emerson favored simplicity in word and 
illustration, as has been shown elsewhere; and in college, many years 
previous, E. T. Channing, his composition teacher, had counseled an 
unpretentious, compressed, precise style. 1 But there is nothing here 
that suggests the athletic intensity which came to characterize his 
style in later years. This, indeed, did not make its appearance con- 
sistently till late in the thirties. Nature . 1836, has a different 
kind of intensity in places--the rapture of ecstasy; but it is not 
tinglingly vibrant like many of the subsequent essays. The addition 

'A, P. Peabody; Harvard Reminiscences. 


of this electricity to Emerson's stylistic resources seems to have 
come about as the result of the combination of Montaigne's influence 
and that of the Each and All theory in support of the specific styl- 
istic qualities mentioned, with the aid by example of much read- 
ing in sixteenth and seventeenth century English literature. 

In 1836 Emerson had not definitely applied the Each and 
All theory to art, but in the next two years he did so, as is evi- 
dent in Mi chael Angelo^ and The American Scholar? both of 1838. In 
the former the relation is set forth generally; in the latter are 
emphasized the importance of experience for the writer's equipment, 
and the desirability of that general democratization which has 
changed and enriched the subject-matter of literature by making pos- 
sible symbolic use of the humblest objects. By 1838, Emerson is 
fully conscious of the definite stylistic qualities he favored. This 
is evident in his comments made in that year on the English liter- 
ature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Here appears an- 
other probable influence by example. He read widely and sympathet- 
ically in the books of these centuries, for many of the writers are 
Platonists, and he regarded the literature of the period as prevail- 
ingly dualistic in character. ^ He is one of many nineteenth century 
essayists udnose minds were steeped in the writings of the seventeenth 
century, and who accordingly went and wrote likewise. He finds in 
these writings "greater freedom, less affectation, greater emphasis, 
bolder figure, and homelier idiom" than in modern books. 4 Thus his 
favorite stylistic qualities have a kind of filial retrospect, to 

^ Natural History of Int ellect . ^ Nature , etc, ^English Traits ; 
Literature . 4 Jpur. V, 22. 


borrow his phrase, to Montaigne, the Each and All theory, and Eliza- 
bethan and Jacobean literature. 

Summary of the elements in the growth of Emerson's theories 
of style may well be accompanied by some account of the development 
of the style itself. Until 1830 or later, he wrote a sedately in- 
tellectual, ministerial style which had the requisite wholeness of 
good tissue that Arnold failed to discover in his later work. It has 
all the continuity of bookishness, and only overcomes this handicap 
by reason of its deep moral earnestness. During these years he recog- 
nizes the value of the symbol as a means of heightening style and 
making it concrete, and comes to realize its spiritual character. 
His earlier admiration for the elegance or passion of oratory is 
gradually transformed into a devotion to simplicity. Berkeley, Bacon, 
Channing, Swedenborg, Plato, and Coleridge stimulate an innate dual- 
ism, and furnish or suggest major philosophic theorems, which in 
turn influence his conceptions of style. He is led to read books of 
science, and becomes acquisitive of the analogies between matter and 
spirit therein suggested. By this time transcendentalism, Montaigne, 
and an inborn independence begin their work, so that the years from 
1820 to 1838 see many important consequences: the development and 
statement of all his fundamental tenets; the formulation of his pur- 
pose to write literature which is the grouping of momentary impression 
and hence runs the risk of inconsecutiveness; and the growth, in 
theory and practice, of his conception of a living style. The beau- 
ties of Walden thrill him, and the thrill is communicated to his ex- 
pression. Having gained concrete human experience from country 
friends and neighbors and from his home life, he converts the mater- 


ial from these sources--with the help of hints and theories drawn 
from Montaigne, Plato, and the Platonists--into spiritual symbol and 
illustration. And it is in this complex fashion that he attains the 
style which he perhaps might have attained anyway, through the ma- 
turing of native tastes--a style live, muscular, yet ideally sug- 



A practically complete Emerson bibliography to date may be 
obtained by combining (l) A Bibliography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 
compiled by G-. 7/. Cooke, Boston, 1908; and (2) the bibliography com- 
piled by H. R. Steeves for the chapter (Till, Book II) on Emerson, 
in the Cambridge History of American Literature, v. 1, New York, 1917. 

This thesis is primarily based on the material found in 
the following: 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Complete Works, Centenary Edition. 
Boston, 1903-4. (The volumes of the Works are 
referred to in the footnotes by their full titles 
with these exceptions: nature, Addresses, and 
Lectures, which is abbreviated to nature , etc.; 
Essays: First Series, abbreviated to Essays I; 
Essays: Second Series, abbreviated to Essays II; 
Letters and Social Aims, abbreviated to Letters , 
etc.; Lectures and Biographical Sketches, abbre- 
viated to Lectures , etc.) 

Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ed. by Edward Waldo 
Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes. Boston, 1909- 
1914. (This is referred to in the footnotes as 
Jour . ) 

Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waiao Emer- 
son. Boston, 1888. (This is referred to in the 
footnotes as C. E. Corr . ) 

Expression, Atlantic Monthly, November, 1860. This 
essay has not been reprinted and is not in- 
cluded in any of the Emerson bibliographies; but 
is credited to Emerson by Poole's Index to Per- 
iodical Literature, and by Adams Sherman Hill, 
Principles of Rhetoric, New York, 1895, p. 170. 

In connection with Emerson's style, the following are of 
interest biographi cally and critically. Those titles which are 
marked with an asterisk (*) I have not been able to examine. 

Albee, John. Remembrances of Emerson. New York, 1901. 
Alcott, Amos Bronson. Concord Lays. 2oston, 1872. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Boston, 1888. 
Arnold, Matthew. Liscourses in America. London, 1885. 
3abbitt, Irving. Masters of Modern French Criticism. 

Boston and Hew York, 1912. 
Bonton, Joel. Emerson as a Poet. New York, 1883 
Birrell, Augustine. Obiter Dicta, Second Series. 

London, 1887. 
Blackwood's Magazine. The Habit of Emerson. May, 

Brownell, William Crary. American Prose Masters. Nev 
York, 1909. 

Burroughs, John. Birds and Poets. Mew York, 1877. 

Emerson and the Superlative. Or it to, 
Feb. 11, 188E. 

Indoor Studies. Boston, 1889. 
Literary Values. Bo3ton, 1902. 
Burton, Richard. x.iterary Leaders of America. Hew 
York, 1904. 

*Carr , Henry Snyder, Emerson as seen through his 

Prose. Mew York, 1882. 
Cary, Elisabeth Luther, Emerson: Poet and Thinker. 

Mew York, 1904. 
Chatiman , John Jay. Emerson and other Assays. Mew 

York, 1898. 

Glark, J. Scott. A Study of English Prose writers. 

Mew York, 1898. 
Collins, John Ghurton. Posthumous Essays. London, 1912. 
Conway, Moncure Daniel. Emerson at Home and Abroad. 

Boston, 1882. 

Cooke, George Willis. Ralph Waldo Emerson: His Life, 

Writings, and Philosophy. Boston, 1882. 
Courtney, William Leonard. Studies Hew and Old. 

iiondon, 1888. 
Curtis, George William, From the Easy Chair, First 

Series. Mew York, 1893. 

Other Essays from the Easy Chair. Mew 

York, 1893. 

Dawson, William James. The Makers of English Prose. 

London and Edinburgh, 1906. 
Dugard, M.M. Halph Waldo Emerson, Sa Vie, Son Oeuvre , 

Paris, 1907. 

Emerson, Edward Waldo. Emerson in Concord. Boston 

and Mew York, 1889. 
Fields, Annie Adams. Mr. Emerson in the Lecture Hoom. 

Atlantic Monthly, June, 1883. 
Firkins, 0.0. Ralnh Waldo Emerson. Boston and Mew 

York, 1915. 

Garnet t , Hi chard. Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Lon- 
don, 1888. 

Genius and Character of Emerson, ed. by F.B. Sanborn, 
Boston, 1885. 

Guernsey, Alfred Hudson. Ralph Waldo Emersjn: Phil- 
osopher and Poet. Mew York, 1881. 

Harris, William Torrey. The Dialectic Unity in Emer- 
son's Prose. (Journal of Speculative Phil- 
osophy, April, 1884). 

Haskins, David Greene. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boston, 

Higginson, Thomas Wentv/orth. Contenvoorar ies . Boston, 

*Hirst, George C. Emerson's Style in his Essays: A 

Defence. Harvard Monthly, October, 1900. 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Bo3ton, 

Hunt, Theodore Whit efi eld. Studies in Literature and 
Style. Mew York, 1891. 


Ireland , Alexander. Ralph Waldo Emerson. London, 1885 

James, Henry. Partial Portraits. London, 1888. 

Lowell, James Russell. My Study Windows. Boston, 1871. 

Maeterlinck, Liaurice. On Emerson, and other Essays, 
_tr. by M.J. Moses. New York, 1912. 

Maulsby, L.L. Ihe Contribution of Emerson to Litera- 
ture. Tufts College, 1911. 

Moore, Charles Leonard. A Master of Maxims. Dial, 
May 1, 1903. 

Morley, John. Critical Miscellanies, v. 1. London, 

More, Paul Elmer. Shelburne Essays, First Series. 
New York, 1904. 

Cambridge History of American Literature, 

v. 1. New York, 1917. 
Moulton, Charles Wells. The Library of Literary 

Criticism. Buffalo, 1904. 
Parker, Theodore. Collected Works, Centenary Edition. 

Boston, 1907. 

Payne, William Morton. Leading American Essayists. 

Sanborn, Franklin Benjamin. Ralph Waldo Emerson, 
Boston, 1901. 

The Personality of Emerson. Boston, 1903. 
Santayana, George. American Prose , selections, etc. 

ed. by George Rice Carpenter. Hew York, 

Interpretations of Poetry and Religion. 

New York, 1900. 
Scudder, Horace Elisha. Men and Letters. Boston and 

New York, 1892. 
*Social Circle in Conoord, The Centenary of the Birth 

of Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1903. 
Stedman, Edmund Clarence. Poets of America. Boston 

and New York, 1885. 
Stephen, Leslie. Studies of a Biographer, Second 

Series, v. 4. London, 1902. 
Whipple, Edwin Percy. Recollections of Eminent Men. 

Boston, 1887. 
Woodberry, George Edward. Ralph Waldo Emerson, New 

York, 1907. 

Woodbury, Charles Johnson. Talks with Ralph Waldo 
Emerson. Hew York, 1890. 

vVith relation to the influences, philosophical and liter- 
ary, which were exerted on Emerson, I have found help in the fol- 

Carlyle , Thomas. Works, Centenary Edition. Critical 
and Miscellaneous Essays. Sartor Resart- 
us. New York, 1898-1901. 

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Complete Works, ed. by 
Professor Shedd. New York, 1868. 


Froth ins-ham, Ootavius Brooks. Transcendentalism in 
Hew England: A History. Hew York, 1876. 

Goddard, Harold Clarke. Studies in New England Trans- 
cend ental ism , Columbia University, 1908. 
Cambridge History of American Literature, 
Book II, Chap. VIII, Transcendentalism. 
Hew York, 1917. 

Harrison, John S. The Teachers of Emerson. Hew York, 

Jeffrey, Francis. Contributions to the Edinburgh 
Review, v. 1. London, 1844. 

ivlontaigne, Michel de. Essays, tr. by Charles Cotton, 
ed. by W. C. Hazzlitt. London, 1902. 

Peabody, Andrew Preston. Harvard Reminiscences. Bos- 
ton, 1888. 

Plato. Dialogues, tr. into English with analyses and 
introduction by B.'Jowett. New York, 1871. 

Princeton Review Theological Essays. Hew York, 1846-7. 

Reed, Sampson. Observations on the Growth of the 
Mind. Boston, 1910. 

Riley, Woodbridge. American Thought from Puritanism 
to Pragmatism. Hew York, 1915. 

Stael-Holstein, Anne Louise Germaine (Hecker) baronne 
de. Oeuvres Completes; publiees par son 
fils. v. 10, De l'allemagne. Paris, 1820-1. 

V/ordsworth , William. Prefaces and essays on poetry, 
etc., ed. with notes by A.J.George, Bos- 
ton, 1892. 


The author of this thesis was born October 2, 1890 
in *'all River, Massachusetts. He attended the public schools of 
that city, and of Plymouth, Massachusetts, which was his home from 
1899 to 1813. From 1907 to 1911 he attended Harvard College, 
which conferred on him the degree of A. B. in 1911. In 1911-12 he 
was lecturer in English at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. 
Since then he has been a member of the Department of English of 
the University of Illinois, till 1916 as assistant, subsequently 
as instructor. In 1914 he received his degree of M. A. from the 
University of Illinois, in which institution he has been a gradu- 
ate student since 1912.